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CARBIS BAY, England – The G7 still has juice.
Or at least that’s 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 pledging to end the coronavirus pandemic, sending a sharp message to China on human rights violations and hostile military maneuvers. , and primarily by uniting on a wide range of other major global challenges, including climate change, free trade and gender equality.
But even as the leaders celebrated their renewed cooperation, in large part thanks to the arrival of US President Joe Biden, their three days of meetings by the English seaside highlighted the growing limitations of the elite geopolitical club – and its vulnerability to interference from the internal politics of its members.
Summit host UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spent a fair amount of time and energy in bilateral meetings to unsuccessfully challenge aspects of Brexit, his country’s departure from the EU causing contention and distraction.
Leaders failed to agree on setting a goal to phase out the use of coal in their own country – a blatant stumbling block as they increasingly need to lead by example in fight against climate change for the rest of the world. No one has forgotten that Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator from the heavily coal-reliant state of West Virginia, is crucial to Biden’s entire legislative agenda.
The bottom line after another seaside summit was that multilateralism was back, but even with good intentions, that doesn’t mean big deals on big issues are easy.
Here are five takeaways from the summit:
1. No coal target
Immediately after the end of the G7 summit, activists from the Extinction Rebellion (XR) group parked a van across a road near the venue. It had no impact on the leaders; Biden had already cut himself.
But the demonstration served to highlight the extent of the gap between climate reality and the political reality of the G7.
The G7’s failure to set a deadline for coal was just the most glaring missed opportunity for leaders to set a new global standard on climate change. They rejected a proposal to stop production of diesel and gasoline cars and barely touched the multibillion dollar bill that the developing world says must be paid to reduce their own emissions.
Even the slippery language on vaccines – was it $ 1 billion or $ 840 million they promised? – will fuel the mistrust with which poor countries view the climate demands that rich governments impose on the rest of the world.
The EU was pushing for the G7 to tackle the risk of carbon leakage – where dirty industries move to other countries to evade higher emissions standards. In the end, Brussels, Berlin and Paris succeeded in obtaining the recognition of the other leaders. But the EU is moving forward on its own with a plan to levy high-emission imports.
Much of that is playing in China’s hands ahead of the big COP26 climate conference. The world’s largest emitter benefits when it can squat down among its allies in developing countries. A real offer on finance and vaccines could divide this group when talks get tough.
It is now up to Italy, which hosts the G20 in October, to try to save a coherent message before the baton returns to the United Kingdom and to the COP26 in Glasgow in November.
– Karl Mathiesen
2. China reprimanded
China emerged as one of the main topics for G7 leaders. Two years after their last physical meeting, President Xi Jinping has tightened his grip on Hong Kong and stepped up China’s military presence around Taiwan, while international attention to the plight of Muslims in Xinjiang has increased dramatically.
In unequivocal language, G7 leaders directly mention a number of contentious issues that will rock Beijing, including a call for another investigation into the origins of the coronavirus in China, as well as a $ 100 billion ‘ambition’ to compete with the belt and the Beijing belt. Road initiative that has built massive infrastructure in developing countries.
While Europe has at times taken a hard line on China, the G7 statement will likely be seen by Beijing as the result of Washington’s efforts to build an alliance with the EU and the UK against it. .
Forced labor is an example of a hardening of mentalities. Although G7 leaders haven’t called China by name, the language is clear as to which country it is referring to – and the call to action is louder than ever.
“We are concerned about the use of all forms of forced labor in global supply chains, including state-sponsored forced labor of vulnerable groups and minorities, including in the agricultural sectors, solar energy and clothing, ”the leaders said in their final statement, adding that their trade ministers will draw up a detailed plan within the next four months.
All this while the Chinese Communist Party plans to celebrate its centenary in just over two weeks.
– Stuart Lau
3. Shot down: vaccine promise under fire
It took some creative accounting – including choosing a start date for the calculations before the summit – but G7 leaders are celebrating the symbolically important goal of pledging 1 billion coronavirus vaccine donations to the developing world .
Activists and politicians are less impressed. Their verdict? Not enough vaccines and not enough urgency.
The One Campaign, co-founded by musician Bono, said that while the summit “had high potential” it had “failed” – putting the world in danger.
The leaders of the rich countries of the G7 “are leaving Cornwall without having taken the concrete steps necessary to end the pandemic,” said Edwin Ikhuoria, executive director for Africa of the humanitarian association.
A group of non-governmental organizations called Civil Society 7 expressed a similar sentiment.
“Without 10 billion vaccines, patent removal and investments in health systems promise to vaccinate the world by the end of next year,” said the group, which includes Action for Global Health and Unicef. UK among its members.
Max Lawson, head of inequality policy at UK charity Oxfam, said “the G7 summit will live in infamy.”
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had already lined up behind criticism, calling the target an “unforgivable moral failure”.
Actress and singer Selena Gomez also did not miss the opportunity to speak. “@BorisJohnson, 5 million doses by September is too little too late. You promised Britain would give ALL of its surplus vaccines ”, Gomez said on Twitter.
– Carlo Martuscelli
4. The Bites of Brexit
If the G7 was supposed to project Global Britain onto the world stage, it missed the mark. Somehow, the summit ended up being overshadowed by the ubiquitous and unavoidable Brexit.
The first signs were promising, when Boris Johnson avoided a confrontation with Joe Biden over the US president’s concerns over the Northern Ireland protocol and came out smiling. The rally itself – taking place in person, hosted by Britain, with a sympathetic group of four additional guests – seemed to bode well for the UK’s ambition to pivot to a looser alliance of democracies after left the EU.
Then, out of nowhere, Canada stepped in to offer assistance in preserving the Northern Ireland peace process – followed by a full day of bilateral talks between Johnson and EU leaders in which they are working together to send the message that the UK must stick to its commitments under the Withdrawal Agreement.
Johnson was clearly upset by this, making it known that “some of our friends here today seem to misunderstand that the UK is one country and one territory”. It later emerged that French President Emmanuel Macron had apparently suggested that Northern Ireland was not part of the United Kingdom in the same way Toulouse is part of France, which pleased the British as well as an uncooked sausage.
In official readings from his meetings, Johnson highlighted areas of agreement: resolutions to send vaccines around the world and tackle climate change. He denied that Brexit had come to dominate the discussions, insisting that “the vast, vast majority of conversations we have had over the past three or four days have been on other topics” with a “degree fantastic harmony between the leaders ”. “
Alas, no one else seemed to have received this particular memo. What is not clear is whether Johnson could have done anything to prevent this outbreak, given that EU leaders were determined to take the opportunity to make their feelings clear.
– Esther Webber
5. On tiptoe in the trade
The pandemic has ravaged the global economy and intensified protectionism as countries rushed to isolate themselves from the COVID-19 virus.
Yet with a new US administration and a new director general of the World Trade Organization, hopes were high for a firm line on how to reform this body. After all, ahead of the summit, business leaders said the WTO was drinking from the “faint hope saloon”.
But ambition was always to be held back by the extreme impact of the pandemic on the global economy. No one came out of the sense that the US and the EU had settled their considerable differences over how to reform the WTO’s dispute settlement body, the Appellate Body, seen as essential to the good. functioning of world trade.
Yet, quietly, there is a consensus. This goes beyond the Washington-Brussels quarrel over the scope of the powers of the appeals body.
Japan, UK, Canada and other members of the Ottawa Group of Aspiring Reformers are slowly moving closer to finding a way to expedite decisions, allowing some references to old cases. , while following a path that Washington will find more acceptable by avoiding relying too much on precedents.
The return to the Washington table, in a more constructive sense, is what could tip the scales in favor of a breakthrough at the WTO Ministerial Council (MC12) in December. This is why, when it comes to saving the world trading system, this G7 has assumed an “importance, as well as a relevance and an importance which is probably more important than at any time during the five or past six years ”, Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Ralph Goodale told POLITICO.
– Anna Isaac
Jakob Hanke Vela contributed reporting.