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Who Gets Invited To The G-20 Party?

ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

And one more thing about this, have you been wondering, as we have, what this whole G-20 thing is exactly? Who gets to come to the party? Well, it turns out it's not the top 20 economies in the world, though it does help to be one of the biggies. No, the first requirement for getting in the door this time was to have been there last time.

Mr. PAUL BLUSTEIN (Journalist in Residence, Global Economy and Development Program, Brookings Institution): This thing was set up about 10 years ago during the Asian financial crisis.

SEABROOK: That's Paul Blustein from the Brookings Institution. Remember the Asian crisis? It started back in 1997 when Japan suddenly called in a lot of short-term loans. Money started pouring out of a lot of Asian countries. There was panic, and local currencies collapsed throughout the continent. That's when the world's economic power houses were called together to deal with the crisis, hence the G-20.

Mr. BLUSTEIN: These are the countries that really sort of matter systemically to the global economy. The good news is that it's preexisting, so you're not going to have a lot of fighting and scrapping this time over who gets invited to the party.

SEABROOK: It makes you wonder, though, which countries got left standing in line at the door? Well, of the world's top 20 economies, four were left out, Iran, Taiwan, the Netherlands, and Spain. Rubbing salt in those wounds are three smaller economies that did get in, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa. Of course, Spain did get in through the back door, since the E.U.'s current president is French, and no one was going to let France get two seats - which raises the question, if Spain got to come to this meeting, will it be there next time?

Mr. BLUSTEIN: Boy, I'll tell you, once these countries are in, it is - you know, dislodging them is like, oh gee, I mean, that's fat chance.

SEABROOK: Then again, next month, France gives up the E.U.'s presidency, passing it on to the Czech Republic. So, adios Spain, unless it becomes the G-21. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Andrea Seabrook covers Capitol Hill as NPR's Congressional Correspondent.