A summit of significant, synergistic success: prospects for the G7 at Charlevoix
G7 Summit

A summit of significant, synergistic success: prospects for the G7 at Charlevoix

On 8–9 June 2018, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will host the most powerful leaders of the world’s most powerful, economically advanced democracies, for the 44th annual Group of Seven summit, held in Charlevoix, Quebec.

Coming to Canada for the first time as leader and to his second G7 summit will be President Donald Trump of the United States, as his mid-term congressional elections on 6 November approach and as his policies on trade, climate change, nuclear proliferation and much else rapidly evolve. British prime minister Theresa May, at her second G7 summit, will search for new trade deals with G7 countries as her Brexit deadline to leave the European Union looms. French president Emmanuel Macron will come to his second G7 summit and his first in the French-speaking world. The veteran will be Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who hosted her first G7 summit in 2007 and her second at Schloss Elmau in 2015, and who hosted the G20 summit in Hamburg in July 2017. Also attending are Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and the European Union’s Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker. Bringing them together, physically and politically, is Canada’s prime minister, at the sixth G7 summit in Canada, his third G7 summit and his first as host.

At Charlevoix, G7 leaders will focus on the five priorities that Trudeau has set from the start of Canada’s year as host: investing in growth that works for everyone; preparing for jobs of the future; advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment; working together on climate change, oceans and clean energy; and building a more peaceful and secure world.

Canada’s areas of focus

The first priority of improving inclusive economic growth includes managing the global economy, fiscal and monetary policy, tax, trade, investment and infrastructure. The second priority of generating good jobs for all, including youth, embraces redesigning education to foster innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship in the digital age. The third priority is an overriding, cross-cutting one to enhance gender equality and empower women. The fourth priority includes controlling climate change as a current compelling threat, enhancing the natural environment and the economy together through clean technology and in other ways, and protecting the world’s vast oceans from plastic and other pollutants. The fifth priority of peace and security addresses several acute issues, notably nuclear and missile proliferation in North Korea, Iran’s nuclear and missile programme, the use of chemical weapons in Syria, regional security risks in Ukraine and the Baltic states, terrorism, and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa, Venezuela and Asia. It extends to crime and corruption, and also violations of democracy and human rights throughout the world, including via cyberspace. Development issues will be addressed, guided by Canada’s feminist international development policy launched in 2017.

To prepare for the summit, Canada has introduced several innovations. There have been unprecedented consultations with civil society, with a focus on youth, and with an expanded array of engagement groups for business, labour, women, youth, civil society, scientists and think tanks. Canada has created and integrally involved the Gender Equality Advisory Council to help guide the host and, through it, the G7 as a whole. To help spur synergies, Canada has mounted four clusters of ministerial meetings: for labour and innovation in Montreal, for foreign affairs and security in Toronto, finance and development in Whistler, British Columbia, and, after the summit, for the environment, oceans and energy on Canada’s Atlantic Coast. It has invited as guests the heads of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and several leaders from coastal states to contribute to the discussions and results on the oceans priority. It intends to report the summit results in a compact communiqué and perhaps a chair’s statement, with the central commitments highlighted for all to see.

The prospects are that this innovative process will produce a summit of significant, synergistic success, with central achievements across and among all its priority subjects.

Spotlight on equality

The most prominent achievements will be on educating girls and combating gender-based violence, along with gender mainstreamed throughout the G7 agenda much more broadly, deeply and creatively than ever before. Also central will be climate change and oceans, led by action on preventing plastic pollution in the oceans, on reinforcing coastal resilience and on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Further achievements will come on promoting democracy by reacting to foreign threats from cyberspace, on artificial intelligence to help secure and prepare citizens for the jobs of the future in the digitalising age and on inclusive economic growth. There might also be initiatives to mobilise development finance, from a wider array of stakeholders and in more innovative ways than before.

Such success will be spurred by the security shocks arising from Syria’s use of chemical weapons on 7 April 2018, Russia’s nerve gas attack in the United Kingdom on 4 March 2018, the terrorist murders in Trèbes, France, in late March and in Paris in mid-May, North Korea’s proliferating nuclear and missile tests in the autumn of 2017, and the US withdrawal in May 2018 from the nuclear deal with Iran. These shocks are joined by smaller and earlier energy, environmental and gender ones, from the oil price spike starting in mid-April, the #MeToo movement for gender equality and the hurricanes devastating the Caribbean and south-eastern United States in September 2017. Also arising in the month before the summit were concerns about a new financial crisis, with Argentina seeking financial support from the IMF and Turkey and other emerging markets showing financial strains. Yet there was also the positive shock from the opportunity to secure the complete verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation of North Korea, with a summit scheduled between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Although this meeting has now been cancelled, North Korea says it is still open to talks.

Another spur for G7 success comes from the inadequacy of some multilateral organisations to counter the current threats, leaving the G7 to fill the gap. These gaps are led by a veto that paralysed the United Nations Security Council and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a UN system with no robust, well-resourced organisation dedicated to gender equality, and a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with an inadequate Paris Accord, from which the United States has announced its withdrawal.

With more reliable, synchronous economic growth among its members, the G7 has enough globally weighty and internally convergent capabilities to produce the required response, especially on the Charlevoix Summit’s priorities. Its members will be united by the direct assault from the current shocks to their common principles, above all the G7’s foundational mission of promoting open democracy and human rights, its recognition that women’s rights are human rights and its core value of ecological conservation. To be sure, its success will be constrained by the limited domestic political cohesion in several members, notably the powerful United States facing mid-term elections and Japan, where public approval of the prime minister has declined. Yet the G7’s unique dynamic as its democratic leaders’ cherished club will be enhanced by Charlevoix’s isolated setting, the experience of its participants and the likeable informality of Justin Trudeau as its host and Donald Trump as its most prominent attendee.