GP Insights # 136, 31 August 2019
During 24–26 August 2019, the G7 summit was held in Biarritz, France. The summit was attended by the leaders from the US, Canada, UK, France, Italy, Germany, and Japan, along with some top European Union officials.
Apart from the G7 leaders and EU officials, leaders from Australia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Egypt, India, Senegal, Rwanda and South Africa also took part. The visit of Iran's Foreign Minister also became the highlight of the summit.
What is the background?
The summit took place in the background of increasing trade tensions between the US and China, fires in Amazon and tensions in the Persian Gulf.
The previous summit was held during 2018 in Quebec, Canada. The summit witnessed substantial differences between the G7 countries. Inclusion of Russia was one of the most discussed subjects in Quebec summit. Trade and Climate Change received significant attention as well. The summit also highlighted the differences between the G7 countries. Trump's differences with the Canadian and French leaders scuttled substantial outcomes of the 2018 summit.
Since the previous summit, the trans-Atlantic divide between the G7 partners also increased substantially. While Europe (including the UK) has been trying to save the nuclear deal with Iran, Trump was showing no signs of accommodation. The second significant difference between the US and Europe was over China. While the EU has its apprehension over China, Brussels prefers to adopt a nuanced approach towards Beijing. The trans-Atlantic G7 partners also differ over Russia and Putin. While Trump is keen to get Russia into the G7, the rest of the group is not in favour of the same. Not now.
Trump's approach to diplomacy has also created tensions at the leadership level.
Outside Trump, G7 also witnessed the change of guard in the UK. Boris Johnson is the new PM with a strong Brexit push. The rest of G7 leaders in Europe is apprehensive of Boris Johnson's agenda; they were meeting Johnson for the first time.
So, the present G7 summit took place in a tensed situation.
What does this mean?
Firstly, the environment and Climate Change was part of the main agenda of the summit, but there was no concrete outcome on the same. Trump did not attend the climate change discussion last year; he skipped this year as well. The summit issued a statement regarding the ongoing Amazon fire and extended a grant of 20 million dollars to Brazil. However, the seriousness of G7 to Climate Change needs to be questioned with their inability to take the US on board.
Secondly, Macron's attempt to play a mediatory role between the US and Iran was evident. His invitation to the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to attend the summit has created a positive atmosphere. This could be a significant step towards the de-escalating the tension and may also lead to Trump meeting with his Iranian counterpart.
Thirdly, the debate over Russi's inclusion has got a new renewal. Trump stated, "it would be better to have Russia inside the tent than outside the tent." In 2014, after the annexation of Crimea, Russia was removed from this group. The US seems to be more interested in getting Russia inside than the rest. Trump's push is likely to continue on Russia.
Lastly, the big question before the summit was whether President Trump would attend this summit. During the last summit, Trump's differences with the rest of G7 members was obvious. Hence, this year, Macron seemed to have made more efforts to deal with Trump than emphasizing on other crucial issues. Perhaps the lack of significant outcomes is because of this.