Group of 20 (G20) – In a Nutshell

G20 – The Fundamentals

Who are the G20 member countries? What issues do they have? Who leads? Our factsheet gives a first overview.


The G20 - an informal global governance club - held its eleventh Summit of Leaders in Hangzhou, China on 4-5 September, 2016.  Its next meeting will be held under the German G20 Presidency on 7-8 July 2017 in Hamburg.

The Group declares itself as the “premier forum for our international economic cooperation.” Its member countries are among the 33 countries with the highest gross domestic product (GDP). (See graphic, below.) Each G20 President invites guests to the annual Summit, including Spain, a permanent guest.  

While the European Union is the only region with full G20 membership, the country chairs of other regional entities are guests, including:

  • Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)
  • New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)
  • African Union (AU)

Guest Organizations include: the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Financial Stability Board (FSB), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations (UN), and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The G20 excludes 173 countries[1] and lacks accountability to any formal institution with universal membership, such as the United Nations. Still, it is more inclusive than the Group of 7 (G7); its member countries represent about 85 per cent of global output; 80 per cent of global trade; and two-thirds of the global population. The G20 is also responsible for 80 per cent of world carbon emissions.

G20 members by groupings

The G7: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, U.K., and U.S. 

The Emerging Economies: Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey (marked italic also members of BRICS club).

Other: Australia and Saudi Arabia

Region: The European Union


In 1999, in the aftermath of the East Asian Financial Crisis, finance ministers of US, Canada, and Germany identified the country members of what became the G20.  The G20 finance ministers and central bank governors were routinely convened to address global economic issues. Then, in 2008, to address the global financial crisis, the Group began meeting at the level of Leaders (Presidents and Prime Ministers). Its primary purpose is to promote global economic recovery, growth, and investment.

Who Leads?

The G20 Presidency rotates among member countries. Each year, on December 1, a new G20 country member becomes President of the Group.  In 2016, Germany becomes President and head of the G20 Troika, which also includes the previous President (China) and the 2018 President, Argentina. The G20 has no permanent Secretariat, so the agenda is set by the President with input from the other two Troika members, among others.  The G20 Leaders have an annual Summit, but the ministerials and working groups convene throughout the year in the manner of a world cabinet.

What Issues?

As shown below, there are two tracks of work with the high priority issues being taken up by the “Finance Track“ and the others by the “Sherpa Track“.  While the real power is held by the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, there are usually meetings of Foreign Ministers and Ministers of Agriculture, Labor/Employment, Trade, Energy, and Tourism as well.


Specific information on the themes will be provided in series # 2 of these fundamentals "The G7 and G20 in the global governance landscape".

This article is part of our dossier "G20 in Focus".


[1] Not counting the EU countries which are represented as a group.

[2] Working and Study Groups under the Chinese Presidency