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Who would replace Argentina on the G20?

Argentina's latest dance with economic nationalism has earned it hostility on multiple fronts. Spain has pledged to contest the nationalization of oil giant YPF, and that move also won Buenos Aires a stiff rebuke from the World Bank chief today. For its part, Colombia complained to the World Trade Organization about Argentina's new obstacles to its exports. A few weeks back the Economist stopped relying on Argentina's official economic data. Then of course there's the simmering dispute with the United Kingdom over the Falkands/Malvinas.

The turbulence emanating from Argentina has led several commenters to insist that the country face consequences, and an editorial in yesterday's Wall Street Journal argued that eviction from the G20 would be a more effective punishment than legal action:

A better way to send a message to Buenos Aires would be for the world's civilized countries to expel Argentina from the G-20. When its president wants to behave like a real head of state and not a thug, the country can be invited back into the club of serious nations.

As an informal grouping without a charter, the G20 has no procedure for evicting a member (and the process by which countries were invited to join the G20 was plenty murky itself). Nor is there any precedent; no country was ever evicted from the various "G groupings" that predated the G20 (the G5, G7, and G8). Because the G20 operates by consensus, however, it's fair to assume that all existing members would have to assent. It's highly unlikely that the existing members would deem the trouble of negotiating that consensus worth the effort. Even those not inclined to stand up for Argentina might worry that the precedent could come back to bite them.     

But that's no reason not to speculate on who might stand in for the troublesome Argentines. Writing at Forbes, Tim Ferguson surveys the plausible replacements:

There are three economies  ahead of Argentina in reported GDP:  Iran, whose governance is suspect, to say the least; Taiwan, an industrial powerhouse whose participation in world diplomacy is blocked by China; and Poland.  Clearly the Polish economy is headed toward a leadership role in Europe....Down the road, a proper place for Taiwan among the major economies should be secured. And if Thailand, whose output is just between the Saudis and South Africans, can return to industrial vibrancy, it too could merit an Asian seat.

For now, as the future of the G20 is mapped, a swap of Argentina for Poland should be actively considered. Someday the once-significant Argentines could return from the minor leagues, but that’s not on the horizon.

For his part, Thomas Wright at the Brookings Institution suggests Spain, which has attended most G20 meetings as a guest in any case. As Wright points out, subbing in Spain for Argentina would be particularly fitting in light of the YPF nationalization. The FT's Alan Beattie offered up another candidate: Chile. Why? "Just to annoy the Argentines." 

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