The G7 countries of the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada have met for the 42nd time in Japan to discuss the biggest risks to global security and the world economy. Here is their 32-page official statement.
The G7 is an interesting grouping, often seen as outdated with its heavy European influence. How much do Italy's policies affect the world these days? The group has waxed and waned — occasionally the G8 when patching things up with Russia — and has become dwarfed by the G20 since it became a leader-level forum in 2008. The pessimistic view was that the latest G7 meeting would be 'unlikely to result in any significant agreement for coordinated action on the range of issues on the agenda'.
The G20 prides itself on being the 'premier forum for international economic cooperation' and making up 86% of the global economy as measured by GDP. The G7's strength has always been its grouping of 'like-minded' countries, a much more subjective criterion to measure. President Obama used his press conference speech to talk about the international order and G7 as a group of 'like-minded countries who are committed to democracy and free markets, and international law and international norms'. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, also brought up values – 'If we are to defend our common values, it is not enough these days to only believe in them. We also have to be ready to protect them.'
Sheila Smith from the Council on Foreign Relations wrote a good overview of Japan's approach to the G7 and how Prime Minister Shinzo Abe 'would like to see the G7 reassert its role of global leadership'. It is not surprising therefore that China and Russia have been quick to heap scorn on the G7.
The tension between the G20 and G7 is even more acute this year given that Japan is hosting the G7 and China is hosting the G20. The Kremlin announced that Russia is more interested in cooperation with the G20 and China's Xinhua was keen to point out the domestic problems within G7 countries and blame Japan for bringing up the South China Sea.
The G7 summit covered a lot of issues in two days: the global economy, trade agreements (Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), maritime security, counter-terrorism, refugees, extremism, the regime in North Korea, Russia's actions in Ukraine and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
On the global economy, nothing is likely to change. Tom Bernes from the Centre for International Governance Innovation notes that 'the G7 is not the forum where significant progress on bolstering economic growth should be expected. It is not the right membership as over half of global growth comes from the emerging markets which are not represented'. The G7 also has the same problem of the G20 in being unable to bridge differences over how to stimulate growth. When G7 Finance Ministers met, Japan wanted coordinated fiscal stimulus, but Germany stuck by structural reforms.
Even in the world of international summits, all politics is local. President Obama brought up Donald Trump and his 'ignorance of world affairs'. Just as in the G20 Finance Ministers' meetings in Shanghai earlier this year, Brexit came up. The G7 communiqué warns of the economic consequences of a Brexit. But it was Chancellor Angela Merkel who won the day with a demonstration of her hallmark Merkel-Raute.
The G7 leaders were talking about all the right things. But the stability of the liberal world order is dependent on more than seven countries. Effective multilateralism needs everybody who matters at the table.
Photo courtesy of Twitter user @g7.