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CARBIS BAY, England – The G7 still has some juice.
Or at least, this is the message the leaders of the Group of Seven Wealthy Democracies tried to send on Sunday by pledging to donate a billion doses of vaccine and swearing to end the coronavirus pandemic by sending a clear message about China Human rights abuses and hostile military maneuvers, and especially by standing together on a variety of other major global challenges, including climate change, free trade and gender equality.
But while the leaders celebrated their renewed collaboration, thanks largely to the arrival of US President Joe Biden, their three-day meetings on the English coast showed the increasing restrictions of the elite geopolitical club – and its vulnerability to interference from its members’ domestic politics.
The summit host, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has spent a lot of time and energy in bilateral meetings unsuccessfully challenging aspects of Brexit, his country’s divisive and distracting exit from the EU.
Leaders have been unable to agree on a coal phase-out target in their own countries – a blatant stumble as they increasingly need to set an example for the rest of the world on how to tackle climate change. It had escaped everyone’s notice that Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator from the heavily coal-dependent state of West Virginia, is central to Biden’s entire legislative agenda.
The bottom line after another seaside summit was that multilateralism is back, but even with good intentions that doesn’t mean big deals on big issues are easy.
Here are five takeaways from the summit:
Immediately after the conclusion of the G7 summit, activists from the Extinction Rebellion (XR) group a van parked across a street near the venue. It didn’t affect the leaders; Biden was already chopped off.
But the protest has shown how big the gap is between the climatic reality and the political reality of the G7.
The G7’s failure to set an end date for coal was just the most blatant missed opportunity for leaders to set a new global standard for climate change. They opposed a proposal to halt production of diesel and gasoline cars and barely touched the multi-billion dollar bill that developing countries believe must be paid to cut their own emissions.
Even the slippery language about vaccines – was it 1 billion or 840 million who rejected it? – Will feed the distrust with which poor countries view the climate demands that rich governments make on the rest of the world.
The EU urged the G7 to address the risk of carbon leakage – when dirty industries migrate to other countries to avoid higher emissions standards. In the end, Brussels, Berlin and Paris managed to get recognition from the other leaders. But the EU alone is promoting the plan to collect high-emission imports.
Much of this is playing into China’s hands in the run-up to the major COP26 climate conference. The world’s largest emitter benefits when it can duck between its allies in the developing world. A real offer on finance and vaccines could split that group if the talks get tough.
It is now up to Italy, which will host the G20 in October, to try to save a coherent message before handing the baton back to the UK and the COP26 in Glasgow in November.
– Karl Mathiesen
China became a major concern for G7 leaders. Two years after their last physical meeting, President Xi Jinping has tightened his grip on Hong Kong and increased China’s military presence around Taiwan, while international awareness of the plight of Muslims in Xinjiang has increased dramatically.
In no uncertain terms, G7 leaders directly mention a number of contentious issues that will stir Beijing, including calls for further investigation into the origins of the coronavirus in China and support for a $ 100 billion “ambition,” to compete with Beijing’s belt and road initiative that has built massive infrastructure in developing countries.
While Europe has at times taken a tough stance on China, the G7 Beijing Declaration is likely seen as the result of Washington’s efforts to build an alliance with the EU and Britain against it.
Forced labor is an example of hardening of attitudes. While the G7 leaders have not called China by name, the language is clear which country it is referring to – and the call to action louder than ever.
“We are concerned about the use of all forms of forced labor in global supply chains, including government-sponsored forced labor of vulnerable groups and minorities, including in agriculture, solar and clothing industries,” said the leaders in their final statement. and added that their trade ministers will come up with a detailed plan within the next four months.
All of this while the Chinese Communist Party plans to celebrate its 100th anniversary in just over two weeks.
– Stuart Lau
It took some creative bookkeeping – including choosing a start date for the pre-summit calculations – but G7 leaders celebrate the symbolically important goal of pledging 1 billion coronavirus vaccine donations to developing countries.
Activists and politicians are less impressed. Your judgment? Too few vaccines and too little urgency.
The One Campaign, co-founded by musician Bono, said that while the summit “had great potential” it “didn’t deliver” – which is putting the world at risk.
The wealthy G7 leaders “are leaving Cornwall after failing to take the real action needed to end the pandemic,” said Edwin Ikhuoria, executive director for Africa at the humanitarian nonprofit.
A group of non-governmental organizations called Civil Society 7 expressed a similar opinion.
“Without 10 billion vaccines, getting rid of patents and investing in health systems promises to vaccinate the world by the end of next year,” said the group, which includes Action for Global Health and Unicef UK.
Max Lawson, head of inequality policy for UK charity Oxfam, said the “G7 summit will live on in shame”.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had already sided with the critics, calling the target “an unforgivable moral failure”.
Actress and singer Selena Gomez also insisted on getting involved. “@BorisJohnson, 5 million doses by September is too little too late. They promised that the UK would donate ALL of its surplus vaccines. ” said Gomez on Twitter.
– Carlo Martuscelli
If the G7 was to project the global UK onto the world stage, it missed the mark. Somehow the summit was overshadowed by Brexit, omnipresent and inevitable.
The early signs were promising when Boris Johnson avoided confrontation with Joe Biden over the U.S. President’s concerns over the Northern Ireland Protocol and made everyone smile. The meeting itself – which was in person and hosted by the UK with a sympathetic group of four additional guests – looked promising for Britain’s ambition to move to a looser alliance of democracies after leaving the EU.
Then, out of nowhere, Canada offered its help to keep the peace process in Northern Ireland – followed by a full day of bilateral talks between Johnson and EU leaders in which they teamed up to push the message home, that Great Britain must stick to its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement.
Johnson was obviously upset by this, saying that “some of our friends here today seem to misunderstand that Britain is one country and one territory”. It later emerged that French President Emmanuel Macron had apparently indicated that Northern Ireland does not belong to Great Britain like Toulouse does to France, which the British lost just as much as a raw sausage.
In the official readings of his meetings, Johnson highlighted areas where there is unity: Resolutions to send vaccines around the world and to combat climate change. Denying that Brexit ultimately dominated the process, he insisted that “the vast majority of the conversations we have had over the past three or four days have been about other issues” with a “fantastic degree of harmony between them.” Leaders “. ”
Unfortunately, no one else seemed to have received this particular memo. It is unclear whether Johnson could have done anything to avoid this flare-up, as EU leaders were determined to take the opportunity to make their feelings clear.
– Esther Webber
The pandemic has permeated the global economy and increased protectionism as countries sought to isolate themselves from the COVID-19 virus.
Still, with a new US administration and a new World Trade Organization director general, hopes for a strong line in reforming this body were high. After all, business leaders said before the summit that the WTO drinks in the “last chance saloon”.
But ambition has always been held back by the extreme effects of the pandemic on the global economy. No one could get out of feeling that the US and the EU had resolved their significant differences over reforming the WTO’s dispute settlement arm, the appeal body that is seen as essential to the proper functioning of world trade.
Nevertheless, there is quietly a consensus building. It goes beyond the Washington-Brussels dispute, how far-reaching the powers of the appellate should be.
Japan, Britain, Canada, and other members of the Ottawa group of wannabe reformers are slowly approaching the quest for a way to expedite decision-making by allowing some references to old cases while navigating a course Washington will find more palatable to avoid relying on precedents.
Having Washington back at the table in a more constructive sense could be decisive for a breakthrough at the WTO Council of Ministers (MC12) in December. Because of this, when it comes to bailing out the global trading system, this G7 has “acquired a meaning and relevance and importance that is probably more significant than it has ever been in the past five or six years,” said UK Canadian High Commissioner Ralph Goodale told POLITICO.
– Anna Isaac
Jakob Hanke Vela contributed to the reporting.