Article - International Cooperation

World Economic Summit




The heads of state and government of the world’s seven leading industrial nations (G7) and of the twenty most politically and economically influential countries (G20) come together for annual meetings held at the invitation of the Presidency for that year. The group adopts a summit declaration (Communiqué) at each meeting, summing up its most important results. The agenda for the summit is drafted by the chief negotiators of the governments, also known as ‘sherpas’. As far as Germany is concerned, the Federal Chancellery has the lead responsibility for preparing the G7 and G20 summits. The sherpa for Germany (personal representative of the Federal Chancellor for the G7/G20) is Prof. Dr. Lars-Hendrik Röller, the Federal Chancellor’s economic and financial policy adviser. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is also involved in the G7 and G20 processes, particularly where these touch upon digitisation, trade and investment policy, and energy policy.

The Group of 7 (G7) is an informal forum established by the heads of state and government of the world’s leading industrial nations, namely Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

The first ‘World Economic Summit’, a precursor to what later became the G7 summit, was held in 1975 at the initiative of former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. The meeting at Château Rambouillet in France was held in response to the oil crisis and the breakdown of the Bretton Woods monetary system and brought together representatives from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. When Canada joined the group in 1976, the G7 was born. Since 1981, the European Union (or, at that time, the European Communities) has also been a regular attendee of the summit meetings. From 1998 to 2014, the G7 held meetings together with Russia in a ‘group of eight’, or G8. In response to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in breach of international law, the G7 states declared on the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague on 24 March 2014 that they would suspend their participation in the G8 format.

The G7 agenda has a strong focus on the global economy, trade policy, foreign and security policy, development, and energy and climate policy. In addition to the meetings of the heads of state and government, there are also regular meetings of the G7 Ministers of Finance and of the Governors of the Central Banks, who convene for discussions on fiscal and monetary policy. The foreign ministers also meet in the run-up to the annual summit meetings to address the latest challenges in foreign and security policy. Depending on the agenda set by the respective presidency, there are also meetings between other government ministers from the G7.

In 2020, the United States took over the G7 Presidency from France. Germany last held the G7 Presidency in 2015. For further information please click here (in German).

Following the Asian financial crisis of 1997, the Group of 20 (G20) Ministers of Finance and the Governors of the Central Banks have held regular meetings every year since 1998 in order to discuss how to foster greater global financial stability. Since the 2008 financial and economic crisis, the G20 heads of state and government have held annual meetings with a view to addressing global challenges together. The G20 since has become the leading informal format for intergovernmental cooperation at leaders’ level. The G20 agenda has since been broadened to include issues of international trade, digitalisation and energy policy, for instance, in addition to fiscal and economic policy.

Together, the G20 represent around two thirds of the global population, more than 80% of global GDP and three quarters of the global trade volume. They also provide three quarters of all development assistance. The G20 is comprised of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the EU, the latter representing those EU Member States that are not members in their own right. Also invited to the meetings are Spain, as a permanent guest, and the heads of the 3G group, the African Union, NEPAD, and the APEC. Depending on the issues being dealt with, other international organisations are also invited to take part in the G20 process and to provide valuable input to its work. This notably applies to the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the OECD, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Financial Stability Board, the International Labour Organization and the World Health Organization. The country holding the G20 Presidency can also decide to invite other countries to participate as guests.

On 1 December 2019, Saudi Arabia took over the 2020 Presidency of the G20 from Japan. Germany last held the G20 Presidency in 2017. At the summit in Hamburg, which took place from 7 to 8 July 2017 and was guided by the motto ‘Shaping an Interconnected World’, the G20 sent a clear signal in favour of free trade, open markets and against isolation. The G20 also agreed to build a partnership with Africa, to join forces to combat excess capacity in the steel sector, and to continuously deepen their political cooperation on shaping the digital transformation. With the exception of the U.S., the G20 reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and presented the G20 Climate and Energy Action Plan for the Agreement’s swift implementation. You can find the official G20 Communiqué of 2017 and related documents and declarations (in German and in English) here and here.