Writing on his blog, Daniel Drezner questions whether friendly discord within the G-20 is indeed a constructive thing, as I argue in my recent Deep Dive piece, "Seven New Laws of the G-20 Era." Specifically, Drezner contests that the global public has no patience for such discord, that the issues most commonly discussed in the forum require solutions -- not just discussion -- and that the G-20, a relatively young group, lacks the institutional credibility to withstand perceived friction among its members.
The G-20 is not just a summit meeting of leaders. The G-20 has a very active track, which has been in existence since the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, of at least biannual meetings of finance ministers and central bank presidents. In addition, G-20 deputies and G-20 sherpas often meet to advance the agenda for the leaders. More than that, as a result of the activities in the finance ministers/central bank presidents track, there is now a network of senior officials continuously active not only in preparation for G-20 meetings, but also in dealing with crises and unexpected challenges.
What this means is that the new, more inclusive configuration of major economies from every region of the world that constitutes the G-20 is a process -- communicating, consulting, and even, on good days, coordinating among 20 countries, not eight. The G-20, in other words, is not an event.
The question that will determine whether the G-20 becomes a "dead forum walking" is not whether major agreements are reached at every summit, but whether the global financial system is safer and more stable, and whether the global economy is growing more rapidly and sustainably -- as a result of the G-20 process.
The jury is still out on that, but looking at the process rather than G-20 summits alone for the answers is the right place to look.
Compared with the less diverse, more like-minded G-8, the G-20 should be expected to have differing perspectives and conflicting views. Reading the other six of the seven "laws" I proposed, one can get a feel for how this diversity creates a different climate in the G-20 and how these new dynamics could make for a fluid diplomatic context that can benefit the United States and other countries: Ideology, prior alliances, and regional blocs have less salience; pragmatism, flexibility, and substance have greater roles, potentially.