What causes G20 to form and how are its member countries selected

What causes G20 to form and how are its member countries selected?

By Joanne Cassar / 14. Sep 2023

In the ever-evolving landscape of global politics and economics, international organizations play a crucial role in fostering cooperation and addressing pressing global issues.

One such organization that has gained prominence in recent years is the G20, short for the Group of Twenty.

This group comprises 19 individual countries and the European Union, representing a diverse array of nations from around the world.

But what factors led to the formation of the G20, and how are its member countries selected? In this blog post, we will explore the origins and the criteria behind the selection of G20 member countries.

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The Genesis of G20

The G20 was not always a fixture in the global political scene. It emerged in response to a series of economic crises in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997-1998 and the collapse of the Russian economy in 1998 serving as catalysts.

As these crises unfolded, it became clear that the existing international economic architecture, dominated by the G7 (comprising the world's seven largest advanced economies), was insufficient to address the challenges faced by the global economy.

In 1999, finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 major economies decided to establish the G20.

Their objective was to create a platform for discussing international financial stability, cooperation, and development.

Initially, the G20 focused primarily on economic and financial issues, but over time, its agenda expanded to encompass broader global challenges such as climate change, trade, and development.

Selection of G20 Member Countries

The selection of member countries for the G20 is not based on rigid criteria like those of other international organizations.

Instead, it is a combination of economic significance and regional representation. Here's how it works:

  • Economic Significance: The G20 comprises the world's largest economies, both in terms of nominal GDP and purchasing power parity. While the exact ranking can vary year by year, the group includes economic powerhouses like the United States, China, Japan, Germany, and India. These nations have substantial influence on the global economy and play a critical role in shaping its trajectory.

  • Regional Representation: To ensure a degree of regional balance and inclusivity, the G20 includes countries from different regions around the world. This is achieved through a combination of formal representation (e.g., the European Union as a single entity representing its member states) and the inclusion of countries from various continents.

  • Informal Invitations: In addition to the core membership, the G20 often extends invitations to guest countries and organizations to participate in its meetings. These guest invitations can vary from year to year and are usually based on specific considerations or issues on the agenda.

  • Rotation: While the core membership remains relatively stable, there is no strict rotation system for G20 membership. However, the organization strives to ensure a degree of continuity and representation from different regions.

Selection Process in Detail

The G20 selection process is dynamic and reflects the ever-changing nature of the global economy. While it is not based on specific numerical criteria or rigid rules, the following factors are crucial in determining membership:

  1. Economic Size: Countries with the largest economies, as measured by factors such as nominal GDP and purchasing power parity, are typically invited to be part of the G20. For example, the United States, with the world's largest nominal GDP, and China, the world's second-largest economy but the largest by purchasing power parity, are prominent members.

  2. Regional Representation: Ensuring representation from different regions is a key goal of the G20. This diversity helps bring a wide range of perspectives and experiences to the table. Notable regional representatives include Brazil and Argentina from South America, South Africa from Africa, and Australia from the Asia-Pacific region.

  3. Geopolitical Significance: Geopolitical influence and strategic importance also play a role. For instance, Russia's inclusion in the G20 reflects its status as a major global power, despite economic fluctuations.
  4. Continuity and Stability: While there is no strict rotation system, the G20 seeks to maintain some continuity by retaining core members over time. Countries like Germany and Japan have been consistent participants due to their enduring economic strength.

World Economy Book

Prominent G20 Member Countries

  • United States: As the world's largest economy, the United States plays a central role in shaping the G20's agenda. Its policies and actions have a significant impact on the global economy.

  • China: With its rapid economic growth and transformation into an economic superpower, China wields substantial influence within the G20, reflecting its status as the world's manufacturing and export hub.

  • Germany: Germany is not only the largest economy in the European Union but also a key driver of the European economy. Its strong export-oriented economy contributes to global trade discussions.

  • India: As one of the fastest-growing major economies, India's inclusion highlights its growing significance on the global stage. It represents the South Asian region within the G20.

  • Brazil: Brazil represents Latin America and brings attention to economic and environmental issues unique to the region. Its vast natural resources and agricultural production are key topics of discussion.

  • South Africa: South Africa is the only African member of the G20, emphasizing the importance of representing the African continent. It plays a role in discussions on development and trade in Africa.

  • Australia: Australia represents the Asia-Pacific region and contributes to discussions on trade, climate change, and economic stability in the region.

  • Russia: Russia's inclusion acknowledges its geopolitical significance and role in energy production and global politics.


The G20's selection of member countries reflects a dynamic and pragmatic approach, focusing on economic significance and regional representation.

While these criteria guide the selection process, the G20's inclusivity allows for flexibility and adaptability in addressing the diverse challenges faced by the global economy.

As the world continues to evolve, the G20 will remain a forum where nations come together to address pressing global issues and shape the future of international cooperation.