Planet Money

China May Regret Pushing For The G-20

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Remember how you used to always hear about the G-7? That was the Group of Seven leading industrial nations that would meet to coordinate the world economy.

But a couple years ago, people realized that it was a bit outdated for, say, Italy to be on the inside of this key group, while China, India and Brazil — three much bigger countries, with faster growing economies — were on the outs.

So now, it's the G-20 that meets — the 20 richest countries that make up something like 85 percent of the world economy.

Finance ministers from the G-20 are meeting in Seoul this weekend. At the top of their agenda: growing tensions over how countries use their currencies to gain advantage in global markets.

China fought to create the G-20; they wanted a seat at the big table. It makes sense, given that China's now the world's second biggest economy. But if the U.S. has its way, the Chinese might regret (just a little) how things have turned out.

The U.S. has been insisting for years that China allow its currency to rise in value. By constantly intervening to keep the yuan weak, China's central bank makes Chinese exports cheaper — and makes U.S. goods more expensive in China.

This conflict has largely been portrayed as the U.S. versus China, the old economic superpower versus the new upstart. But all those new members of the G-20 — Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Mexico — ¬†also get hurt when China keeps its exports cheap and imports expensive.

So China not only has to ignore the U.S. to keep the yuan weak; China also has to ignore the other newly emerging countries from around the world.

And it's likely that the U.S. is hoping that this weekend, China will be getting pressure from those emerging countries with new seats at the big table.



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