Reading through this European Voice article by Richard Gowan and Bruce Jones (it’s sub. req., but Global Dashboard has a write-up here), I can’t help but think that the G-8 would be more relevant if it returned to its exclusive Euro-Atlantic roots, as opposed to the neither/nor affair it has become. As Gowan and Jones explain, U.S.-EU splits prevent any broader agreements from being reached with the emerging powers, while the broader format prevents the U.S. and EU from meaningfully hashing out their differences.
They argue for maintaining the current format, while simply doing a better job of organizing it. But the exclusive G-8 was really only a problem when the E-12 (“E” for emerging) had no other arena in which to bring their agenda to bear. But with the advent of the G-20 as the summit where global deals are forged — to say nothing of the BRIC, UNASUR and SCO summits to which the G-8 aren’t invited — that’s no longer the case.
At this point, there’s no reason not to organize these things like the World Cup, with regional and/or constituent group meetings leading up to regularly scheduled global summits where the competing agendas are then aligned.
On a related note, the days when U.S. and European interests automatically line up on the urgent issues of the day are long gone, and I suspect that part of what’s going on here is also the unsettling realization that the “teams” are shifting. That had already begun to a certain extent under the Bush administration, but I get the sense it will accelerate under President Barack Obama.