The G7’s significant substantive success at the 2018 Charlevoix Summit
G7 Summit

The G7’s significant substantive success at the 2018 Charlevoix Summit

Its standout, signature successes started with its ultimate priority of gender equality, which was uniquely to be mainstreamed throughout all the issues it addressed. Here the Charlevoix Summit mobilised $3.8 billion new money to educate poor girls in conflict zones and thus rebuild their communities as well. This was almost three times the amount that the leading Canadian non-governmental organisations had asked for this purpose from the start. Save the Children estimated that another 8.67 million children would be educated as a result.

Marie-Claude BibeauCharlevoix also produced an additional $3 billion package from all G7 members’ development finance institutions and their private-sector partners for women’s economic empowerment over the next two years. And because French president Emmanuel Macron said he would continue gender equality as a priority when he hosts the G7 next year, Trudeau’s central Charlevoix legacy will live on for another year.

On the priority of oceans, five G7 members signed on to a G7 pledge to prevent plastics pollution in the oceans. Canada committed $100 million to this cause. The G7 also agreed to reinforce the resilience of coastal communities. Canada as host pledged an additional $162 million. This provided a powerful platform on which to build when Canada hosted the meeting of G7 ministers of the environment and climate change, oceans and energy in the fall. It also made Charlevoix a $7 billion summit in the money it mobilised for global public goods, above all for the most vulnerable and poor.

The most surprising success came on the divisive issue of trade. Despite the many dire predictions of a six-versus-one dispute that would contaminate the consensus existing elsewhere, the talks on trade were civilized and contained, if vigorous and blunt. No new harm done there.


On the important component of the summit process, success appeared almost everywhere. The great drama over whether the summit would culminate in an eight-page, single-spaced, 28-paragraph consensus communiqué to which all members had agreed was resolved at the very end when such a communiqué was triumphantly produced. It conveyed the leaders’ authority on an additional seven “commitments” to be released separately, to highlight the importance the host wished to attach to them.

This was a fitting end to a process that began when all leaders came to the summit, arrived at the start and attended, engaged seriously and with collegiality in all the sessions while there. This included the innovative breakfast meeting between members of Trudeau’s Gender Equality Advisory Council and all G7 leaders, including Donald Trump. Although Trump did leave mid morning on the second day, to prepare for his historic summit in distant Singapore with North Korea’s leader on 12 June, his early departure only followed the precedent set by G7 leaders from several countries at G7 summits past.


The Charlevoix Summit’s significant success is seen in its performance on the major dimensions of global governances that such summit’s perform.

On the first dimension of domestic political management, on the measure of communiqué compliments to G7 members, there were none in all of the eight documents produced in the leaders’ name. This compares with two from 2017, which was Trump’s first G7 summit, 22 from 2016 and the 4.2 average from 1975 to 2017.

On the second dimension of deliberation, its private components of conversations at the summit was strong. At the collective summit sessions, there was vigorous engagements from all leaders at all sessions for which they were present at the summit.

Giuseppe Conte

With regard to the on-site bilaterals, there were nine encounters between pairs of G7 members. Canada as host led with four meetings, with one each with the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy and the United States. Also in first was Italy, as its brand new leader Giuseppe Conte also had four, with Canada, Germany, France and the UK. Then came the UK with three, with Canada, Japan and Italy. Japan had two, with Canada and the UK, and France had two, with Italy and Germany. Germany had two, with France and Italy. The US had only one, that with Canada. Thus, in this summit bilateral sociogram, Canada as host came first, and Trump’s United States came last. It was almost America alone.

In the public component, of communiqué conclusion, Charlevoix performance was significant. It produced nine documents, all in the form of consensus communiqués, and no chair’s summary or statement at all. They contained a total of 11,224 words. The communiqué had 4,054 words or 36% of the total; the Charlevoix Commitment on Equality and Economic Growth had 927 or 8%; the Charlevoix Commitment on Innovative Financing for Development had 770 or 7%; the Charlevoix Common Vision for the Future of Artificial Intelligence had 680 or 6%; the Charlevoix Declaration on Quality Education for Girls, Adolescent Girls, and Women in Developing Countries had 1,304 or 12%; the Charlevoix Commitment to End Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, Abuse and Harassment in Digital Contexts had 655 or 6%%; the Charlevoix Commitment on Defending Democracy From Foreign Threats had 419 or 4%; the Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Coastal Communities had 1,490 or 13%; and the G7 Oceans Plastics Charter had 915 or 8%.

This total of 11,224 words and nine documents compared well with Taormina’s 8,614 words and four outcome documents and surpassed the annual average of 10,183 words and 5.4 documents from 1975 to 2017. It far surpassed the average of the five previous Canadian-hosted G7 summits of 6,881 words and 5.8 documents.

On the third dimension, that of principled and normative direction setting, Charlevoix’s performance was substantial. Its nine documents issued in the leaders’ name affirmed the G7’s foundational principles of open democracy 33 times and those of individual liberty (expressed as human rights) 23 times. Affirmations of democracy or human rights came in eight of the nine Charlevoix documents, with only the plastics charter left out. The Charlevoix overall total of 56 affirmations of either democracy or human rights compares with the 158 affirmations in last year’s much longer Taormina communiqués, and the overall G7 annual summit average of 28.2 from 1975 to 2017. Charlevoix thus doubled the performance of the historic G7 summit norm, even if it fell well below the production of the previous year.

On the fourth dimension of decision making, Charlevoix was a strong success. It produced 84 precise, future-oriented, politically binding commitments in its main communiqué alone and a total of 314 in all of the nine documents its produced. This was far more than the 72 commitments produced in all the leaders’ documents at the last G8 summit Canada had hosted, that at Muskoka in June 2010. It was more than three times as many as the average of 81 produced at all five Canadian-hosted summits. Charlevoix significantly surpassed the 180 produced at Donald Trump’s first G7 summit, in Taormina in Italy in 2017, and the 117 average at all annual G7 summits from 1975 to 2017.

On the fifth dimension of the delivery of these decisions, through members’ compliance with their commitments, performance seemed promising. The outcome documents showed that the leaders knew they needed to comply, and promised to do so, as they made several explicit references to this in their central communiqué, including one on jobs for the future, one on advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, five on economic growth that works for everyone, and seven on peace and security.

Bill Morneau

On the sixth dimension, the institutional development of global governance, performance was solid. To be sure, there was only one reference to institutions inside the G7, specifically a reference in the blueprint to the G7 ministerial meeting on the environment, oceans and clean energy. This compared to 18 references in 2017.

They also thanked in their communiqué the formal engagement groups, without listing them by name, and the Gender Equality Advisory Council, which was a body struck by the G7 presidency and not the G7 as a whole. They further agreed that France would host the G7 and its summit next year.

There were 21 references to institutions outside the G7. They were led by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) with three, followed in turn by the World Trade Organization (WTO) with two, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank, Paris Club, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, African Union (AU), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), United Nations General Assembly, the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, InsuResilience Global Partnership, Interpol, Regional Fisheries Management Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, and United Nations Environment Programme with one each. This compared to 26 last year, led by the UNSC with five, followed by the OECD with four, the International Labour Organization with four, the UN with three, the AU with three, the G20 with two, and the OSCE, WTO, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Interpol with one each. In 2010, the last time Canada hosted, there had been 52, led by the UN with 19, WHO with five, the World Bank with four, the Global Fund, the UNFCCC, the International Atomic Energy Association with three each.Imperfections

Catherine McKennaAmidst all these significant advances there were indeed several shortcomings. The third signature success that had been prepared — a strategy to prevent foreign interference in democratic elections — was absent from the highlights Trudeau noted in his concluding news conference that reported the summit results before the written communiqué appeared. It was also disappointing that all seven members did not signed on to the zero plastics charter, especially a Japan that was most geographically exposed to the Asian oceans from which most of the world’s plastics flowed into the sea. Trump’s surprising public proposal on the morning the summit started to have Russia come to a G7 meeting to negotiate with it face to face could have been prepared and communicated privately in advance, and then seriously discussed when the leaders met. And Trump could have flown in earlier to have a pre-summit bilateral with Trudeau, to pave the way to greater summit success in the same way that Trudeau had with Macron.


The greatest shortcoming came shortly after 7:00 PM, two hours after the summit communiqué had appeared. Then Trump tweeted: “Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers, and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the US Market! A minute later he tweeted “PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that ‘US Tariffs were kind of insulting’ and he ‘will not be pushed around.’ Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!”

These tweets immediately aroused memories of the only failed G7 summit in its 44 years, when a consensus concluding communiqué was immediately repudiated by the leaders who had agreed to it in their news conferences that immediately followed at the summit site. The divisive issue then was the proposed Soviet gas pipeline at the height of the new Cold War, which U.S. president Ronald Reagan vigorously opposed. In Trump’s case his unilateral repudiation of the communiqué came only after he left to go home alone, with only his closest White House advisors available to talk him. It remains to be seen if Trump will follow by actually imposing the sanctions Reagan did on his European allies, with tariffs on the Canadian autos that Trump’s tweets alludTrudeau G7ed too. If so the Charlevoix Summit will likely have made matters worse, by escalating the trade skirmish into a trade battle over autos or even into a trade war over the North American Free Trade Agreement as a whole.

Two hours after it ended, Trump’s two tweets made Charlevoix a public relations failure in its immediate post-summit presentation in some places. It remained a summit of significant substantive success. To be sure, this could change on both dimensions, and in both directions, in the days and weeks to come. However, the day after the summit, it seemed that substantive success would remain, while the public relations setback would be short-lived and largely experienced by Trump rather than the G7 as a whole or its Charlevoix host.