The change in the balance of forces associated with this transformation presents new challenges to the institutional architecture of global political and economic governance. Germany will therefore be making key world-economic topics a central theme of its presidency of the G8.
In this context, this informal coordinating forum is of great importance, among the reasons for this being the G8's active commitment to free, open markets and a liberal trade regime, and the responsibility it has assumed for responding to global challenges such as climate change and the fight against poverty.
Basic economic data
The G8 countries are responsible for some 63 per cent of world GDP. Germany itself, incidentally, is responsible for 6 per cent, putting it in third position behind the United States (28 per cent) and Japan (10 per cent).
The G8 countries account for some 50 per cent of worldwide trade in goods, in total importing somewhat more than they export. As Germany's trading partners, they accounted for imports and exports valued at 518 billion euros, representing more than a third of Germany's total trade volume of 1.411 billion euros.
But the G8 do not see themselves primarily as a trading community. The Group of Eight is rather a forum which, aware of its shared responsibility for key global questions, wishes to make an active contribution to the development of constructive solutions. This is evident too in the G8's commitment to the cause of the Third World.
Responsibility for development cooperation
The eight states provide three-quarters of all development aid. According to the World Bank, G8 members were seven of the ten biggest donors of development aid in 2004: the United States (26 per cent), Japan and France (both 11 per cent), the United Kingdom (10 per cent), Germany (9 per cent) and Canada and Italy (both 3 per cent).
In 2004 these G7 countries provided 57,561 million US dollars in development aid. And the figures are rising: the 80,081 million US dollars made available in 2005 represent an increase of almost 40 per cent. A goal of the German presidency of the G8, however, will be to demonstrate the limitations of such government aid. More is needed: if the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are to be achieved, the countries concerned need growth and investment on the basis of good governance, economic reform and increased self-responsibility.
Taking the initiative on the international stage
Given their economic strength, the members of the G8 are in addition the largest contributors to international organisations. Contributions to the United Nations, for example, are calculated primarily on the basis of gross national product over the previous six years. The largest contributors are thus the United States, Japan and Germany.
The same is true of financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington. Member states are assigned a quota, a share they must contribute to the organisation's resources, which also enters into the weighting of voting rights. These quotas are calculated on the basis of the country's economic rank in the world. Together, the G8 countries, with 48.19 per cent, hold almost half of the IMF total quota. The procedure is very similar in the case of the World Bank.
Even though the G8 is not an international organisation, because the Group of Eight reaches its decisions by consensus, it represents, not least by virtue of its global economic importance, a real centre of gravity and an agent of change in the further development of the international multilateral system of economic and political governance.