G8 vs. G20: What is the difference?

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Difference between G8 and G20

The G8, or Group of Eight, and the G20, or Group of Twenty, are both international groups that have been created in order to allow some of the richest and most influential countries in the world to work together. The G8 is made up of fewer countries than the G20, but the G8 has a much wider area of interest. The G20 is a purely economic group, while the G8 covers topics as diverse as health, foreign affairs, labor and the environment.


The G8 consists of eight member countries. When the group was created, in 1975, it was made up of six countries: France, the US, the UK, Germany, Italy and Japan. Canada joined in 1976, and the group changed its name from the G6 to the G7. The last member country to join was Russia, which became a part of the group in 1997, when the name changed to the G8. In addition to the eight member countries, the European Union is also represented within the group. There have been discussions about the possibility of including more countries in the group. Five rapidly growing countries have been suggested as new members: China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico. They are often referred to as the Outreach Five, and they have already participated as guests in previous G8 meetings.

The G20 consists of 19 member countries, together with the European Union. The countries that are part of the group are France, the US, the UK, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada, Russia, South Africa, Mexico, China, India, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Australia. These countries together account for about 85 percent of gross national product in the world and 80 percent of worldwide trade. The representatives who participate in the G20 are finance ministers and the governors of central banks, as well as the heads of state of the member countries. Although they are not officially members of the G20, both the Netherlands and Spain have participated in 35 of the previous G20 meetings.


The G8 and the G20 both provide an opportunity for member countries discuss issues and come to international agreements. Meetings and summits between member countries are an important opportunity for discussion.

The name G8 can be used to refer both to the group itself and its member countries, and to the summits that are held once a year, in which representatives of the member countries come together to discuss important matters. Representatives of the groups may also meet at other times during the year. G8 finance, environment and foreign ministers usually also meet at other times during the year. G8 summits typically involve discussion of the major issues of the time and a chance to set the agenda for the hopes of the member states for the coming year. It also encourages cooperation between the members at other multinational meetings.

Although the G20 members have met and interacted on many occasions, it was not until the financial crisis in 2007 that an annual summit was created. The summit involves meetings between heads of state and meetings between finance ministers and central bank governors. The first summit took place in 2008, with twice yearly meetings occurring from 2008 to 2010. Annual summits will continue, starting in 2011.

Neither of the groups has a permanent organizational structure. Instead, the responsibility of chairing the groups revolves between its members. In 2010, the presidency of the G8 rests with Canada, while the chair of the G20 in the same year is South Korea.


The G8 provides an opportunity for the leaders of member countries and for other representatives such as ministers to discuss issues of international concern. The G8 has discussed issues such as the environment, the economy, law enforcement, social development and energy.

The G20 focuses on economic issues at an international level. Since 2009, the G20 has taken over from the G8 as the main council for economic issues.

Similarities and Differences

The G8 and the G20 are both international groups formed of some of the most powerful countries in the world. However, these two groups do not simply differ in the number of countries that are members. The groups have very different functions and interests, with the G8 having a much wider scope than the G20.

  • G8 member countries: France, the US, the UK, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada, Russia.
  • G20 member countries: the G8 plus South Africa, Mexico, China, India, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Australia and the EU.
  • G8 is a chance for member countries to discuss major international issues.
  • G20 is the main economic council of the world's wealthiest nations.


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