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G20: An Emerging Development

Analysis by Sanjay Suri

PITTSBURGH, Sep 24 2009 (IPS) - Almost before anyone knew it, a new language has become current leading up to the two-day G20 meet in Pittsburgh that divides the world in ways that seem suitable at the high table of the day. The new tiers are the developed, the emerging, and of course the poor.

That last is the one category that seems not to change.

Until the other day, what are now classed the emerging economies were simply the developing nations. The developed would remain, it was rarely questioned, prosperous in perpetuity because they were simply who they were. The developing would remain that way forever too, never quite getting there. And whoever thought the poorest will one day be rich?

But in what was the world known as the developing world, there are now two, in terms of nomenclature: the developing and the emerging. And on the world stage, the emerging now sit at a table with the developed, not with the developing.

“We need only to look at the history of international negotiations to see patterns of divide and rule,” Asad Rehman from Friends of the Earth tells IPS. “This is an effort to weaken the G77 bloc.”

That has been an effective bloc “able to hold together for the WTO (World Trade Organisation) negotiations,” Rehman says. “We need a strong G77.”

This bloc, he says, is being split into the most vulnerable developing countries on one hand and the bigger and more developed ones who may only look after their own interests. And with the creation of the G20, the voices of others will not be heard, or at least, heard very much less than if the developing world had stuck together.

“It really means that the G8 table has been expanded to include the emerging economies,” John Hilary, executive director of the independent development group War on Want tells IPS. “This raises the big question where they will stand vis-à-vis other developing countries.”

This will be a particular issue with the WTO negotiations coming up, says Hilary. “At the WTO the developing countries have been seen as a coherent bloc, and identified by that name. If that goes, and there is then another layer, it can be very dangerous. The unity might go, and then the power.”

The emerging economies are clearly keen to leave that ‘third world’ tag behind. That tag was a shaming one, almost. No one ever spoke of the first world of the developed, or was ever quite sure what and where the second world was, unless it was that of relative prosperity of the socialist kind, the old Soviet republic, their protégés in Eastern Europe, and places like what was formerly Yugoslavia.

That category dissolved away for a new tier to take second place. This category is identified as usually China, India, Brazil and South Africa. But there is another lot in second place usually not spoken of, at least at global negotiations: the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The region has a bigger economy than many of the economies classified as emerging. The region includes big economies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. From MENA, Saudi Arabia is in the G20.

But the difficulty with the ’emerging’ bloc is not the others like it that it excluded – it may be those within itself that it may fail to include. The poor within South Africa, China, India, Brazil have been seen as, and certainly claimed as, insurance that their governments will not adopt policies hurtful to the poor. The tests for this are near at hand now.

About the first will be the meeting of ministers to resume talks on a new trade round. The meeting has been called in Geneva in November. Leaders from the developed and emerging economies agreed at the G8 summit in L’Aquila earlier this year that a new trade deal would be concluded next year. The question is what present position the emerging economies may be prepared to surrender for that to happen.

That might well decide whose side they are on – and whether they are on their own side.

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