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FALMOUTH, England – Summits can be both about burying axes and making big plans for the future. Here are some of the most important – and ongoing – struggles the G7 should be looking for.
Something would go wrong if we had a G7 summit without at least some hostility between Britain and France. Just as Boris Johnson believed he had calmed the diplomatic dispute with Washington over Brexit in Northern Ireland, Emmanuel Macron reappeared and said the idea of renegotiating the trade mechanism was “not serious”. And as a gesture of belonging to the EU, he has tweeted a photo on his arrival in Cornwall with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Council President Charles Michel, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said: “As always, the same union, the same determination to act, the same enthusiasm! The G7 can begin.” In an uncertain world, France’s tougher stance on Brexit is at least reassuring in its persistence.
Likewise, Macron will not have endeared himself (not that he would like to) in the UK by claiming that the G7 is lagging behind France on vaccine diplomacy. In the run-up to the summit, he threw down the gauntlet by expressing support for the waiver of patents on vaccines. He tweeted: “France has worked from day one to make solutions to the pandemic a global public good … dose sharing, opening up intellectual property, funding health systems. It is up to the G7 to get involved. “The United Kingdom, together with Germany, continues to oppose renouncing the WTO.
Brussels and Washington also disagree on renouncing intellectual property rights related to vaccines. Washington caused a surprise across the Atlantic last month when the Biden administration said it would support the waiver discussions underway at the WTO. EU leaders were skeptical, saying they had not received any details on how the plan would work or, more importantly, would bring vaccines to poor countries faster – in short, a red herring.
But with Emmanuel Macron and the European Parliament, who have backed the idea in the last few days, the pressure for a change of attitude in Europe will increase.
And while there have been positive signals for trade, there are still two major sources of tension between the US and the EU: planes and steel. The first is the long-standing dispute over civil aircraft between Airbus and Boeing, which has resulted in politically sensitive goods like Scotch whiskey and Harley Davidson being affected by duty-for-deed duties. The second is a Trump-era measure that treats steel imports from the EU and the UK as a national security risk. Talks are ongoing on both fronts.
“The conversation is much less about bilateral relations and tariffs when it comes to steel, and more about strategy with China,” said Chad Bown, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
The two countries have a complicated history. After a court ruling in 2018, part of that story reappeared and ignited new ranks. Tokyo signed a treaty in 1965 that restored diplomatic ties between the two countries and provided loans and grants to repair its troubling colonial legacy in Seoul.
However, the 2018 South Korean ruling stipulated that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Limited should make amends to the families of workers used as slave laborers during World War II, which heightened tensions. Then Japan cut back exports of sensitive materials used in technology manufacturing to South Korea. It has put the strained global supply chains under additional pressure.
As if that wasn’t enough, there is also a territorial dispute between the two nations that is getting more attention due to an Olympic map.
The construction of a pipeline to bring Russian gas to Germany has long been causing trouble in the U.S. Both the Republican and Democratic governments view the Nord Stream 2 project as undermining security in the region and hence Germany’s commitments as a member of NATO.
Even so, there has been a shift since Joe Biden took over the helm. POLITICO reported the US plans to waive sanctions against an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who runs the company that is building the pipeline. But tensions can still arise.
The State Department said last month, “The Biden administration made it clear that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a Russian geopolitical project … We continue to investigate companies involved in potentially sanctionable activities and have made it clear that companies risk sanctions if they do them in north stream 2. “
No doubt there are those for whom Tory Britain still conjures up images of tally-ho toffs riding through the countryside, but Boris Johnson’s Conservatives were on a journey on animal welfare. This is not least due to Johnson’s wife Carrie – formerly the party’s communications director.
As an animal lover, she helped spark a conservative rebranding by incorporating the “conservation” part of her members’ instincts and presenting Britain as the new post-Brexit protection for wildlife and farm animals (please use your own healthy dose of skepticism here ). With that in mind, Johnson had some strong words for Japan about whaling in January that are hard to miss.
And something else …
The biggest series of them all will surely be Johnson’s decision to schedule his grand G7 press conference to clash with England’s 2020 Euro soccer match against Croatia.