This year’s summit in Charlevoix is a crunch moment for the G7. The same could probably have been said before each of the previous 43 summits; after all, the first meeting in 1975 was held against the backdrop of an oil shock and financial crisis that shook the world’s economy.
Since then, through good times and bad, through boom and bust and through peace and conflict, the G7 has always been a beacon of stability. Our partnership is one built on trust, friendship and shared interest. By working together, we make ourselves and the world around us stronger, both individually and collectively. What is good for all is good for one.
As we meet in Canada in June, the need for G7 leadership is more important than ever as the world around us changes and threatens to splinter. The case for global cooperation has never been more acute. Our economies are more intertwined than at any point in history. We share the same challenges, from the pressures of climate change to migration, all the way through to cybersecurity and the impact of new technologies on our lives and societies.
And yet despite this, there is a growing trend for protectionism, nationalism and questioning of the global system. We must tackle this head on in Charlevoix, because we ignore it at our peril.
This will be the European Union’s message in June. We will stand up for a global economy that is open, transparent, fair and governed by clear rules. It makes sense for us: a third of our national income comes from trade with the rest of the world. And for every billion
euros in exports, 14,000 jobs are created in Europe.
But we primarily believe in trade because it helps us improve lives and make society fairer. This is why we are working with like-minded G7 partners to show that trade is not only good for business, but is first and foremost good for people. Our trade agreements with Canada and Japan show the way. They help ensure the benefits of trade are felt by all, while enshrining gold standard protection on food safety, regulatory standards and environmental protection.
This is the trade that we believe in, built on rules, trust and reliable partnerships – just like the G7 itself. It helps us create a fair and level playing field – and it is what makes it a win-win for all. As tempting or popular as they may be, unilateral, blanket decisions on tariffs go against what makes global trade work for so many people, businesses and countries around the world.
A fairer world for all
This commitment to making a global world fairer for all should be the central focus of our discussions in Charlevoix. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s priorities for Canada’s presidency of the G7 will help ensure that we stay focused on this.
In particular, I look forward to the discussion on the digitisation of our society and the future of jobs. These are issues we are all grappling with. For us, new technologies should not mean new values. This is why, for instance, new rules on the protection of data have recently come into force to help ensure that Europeans all have the same rights online as we do offline. I am delighted to see this becoming the benchmark for companies and countries all around the world.
But we must also recognise that the digital transformation is a worry for many. Many of today’s jobs did not exist a decade ago. Most children entering school now will end up in jobs that do not yet exist, using technology that is not even yet developed.
This uncertainty causes anxiety, and the nature and quality of work is already significantly changing. It is our duty as global leaders to help our workforce adapt to changing job requirements and to develop the skills they need to thrive in the new labour market. In Europe, we now have a pillar of social rights to make sure that people come first, while our recent strategy on artificial intelligence focuses on new skills and retraining to make sure that all workers can adapt and thrive in the new world of work.
These are the issues that should unite and bring together the G7. It is a global hub founded on trust, openness and shared values. We meet every year because we share the belief that protectionism does not protect and that isolationism only isolates. More than ever we must fall back on this, on what unites us and what has been successful. The G7 must once again live up to its responsibility, making the world fairer and setting the benchmark for others to follow. There is no better time or place than Charlevoix to make this happen, and with Trudeau at the helm I have no doubt that we will.