Planet Money


Now let's look at the global economy. South Korea hosts a meeting this weekend that will bring together key figures from the world's leading economies. At the top of their agenda, growing tensions over how countries use their currencies to gain advantage in global markets.

Adam Davidson with NPR's Planet Money team has this crib sheet for what's at stake.

ADAM DAVIDSON: Remember how you used to always hear about the G7? The G7 is meeting today to negotiate a major deal, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then you'd see a picture of all these severe looking men in dark suits? So, you might recall, that was the Group of Seven leading industrial nations. The finance ministers would meet every once in a while to coordinate the world economy.

But a couple years ago enough people realized that it's a bit outdated for Italy to be on the inside of this key group and China and India and Brazil -these much bigger countries with much faster-growing economies - to be on the outside.

So now it's the G20 that meets. It's the 19 richest countries in the world plus the European Union. They make up about 85 percent of the world economy. And this weekend they're meeting in Korea and there will be an interesting irony.

China fought for this. They wanted the table to get bigger and they wanted a seat at that big table, which makes a lot of sense. China's now the world's number two economy. But if the U.S. has its way, the Chinese might, at least a little bit, regret how things have turned out.

You know, the U.S. has been asking, cajoling, insisting for years now that China allow its currency, the yuan, to go up in value. By constantly intervening to keep the yuan weak, China's central bank makes Chinese exports cheaper, which hurts U.S. exporters.

And this conflict has largely been portrayed as the U.S. versus China, the old economic superpower versus the new upstart. But the U.S. has noticed, hey, all those new members of the G20, like Brazil and Saudi Arabia and Mexico, they get hurt too when China keeps its exports cheap. If China ignores the big superpower, can they also ignore their own newly emerging colleagues?

Now, all the key meetings are going to be behind closed doors this weekend, so we don't know exactly what's going to happen. But what does seem fairly clear is that the U.S. is hoping that China will be getting pressure from everyone all around that new, much bigger big table.

Adam Davidson, NPR News.

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