G7 leaders display unity but appear unstable at home

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By Creative Media News

  • G7 leaders face significant domestic challenges
  • Unified stance: Ukraine aid, China tariffs
  • G7 criticized for elitism, Gaza stance

This year’s G7 conference had all the signs of a vulnerable club but one that nonetheless fights hard to protect Western interests.

On Saturday, the leaders of what were once the world’s wealthiest countries wrapped up the three-day G7 meeting in Borgo Egnazia, a luxury resort set in the hills of Puglia in southern Italy. However, for most of its members, domestic problems outweighed the group’s global political authority.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s party suffered a crushing defeat in the European Union parliament elections last week, prompting him to call quick polls. In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholtz’s Social Democratic Party struggled in the EU elections, prompting critics to urge him to follow Macron’s lead. United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is already preparing to go to the polls in early July for an election that most predict will end his government in a landslide victory for the opposition party, Labour, while Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval rating has plummeted to a dismal 38%. In Japan, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s party has been embroiled in a political crisis since last year, with some calling the leader Japan’s most unpopular premier since 1947.

Above all, the spectre of the November US presidential election has loomed big over this G7 conference, with the possibility of a comeback for Donald Trump, a former president who is openly critical of Washington’s multilateral commitments.

Despite the domestic issues G7 leaders face, the group rallied around a strong message of unity in addressing the threats eroding Western stability. The most major announcement on Thursday was that it will use blocked Russian assets to provide a $50 billion loan to Ukraine to help its efforts in the ongoing battle with Russia.

According to Ettore Greco, vice director of Instituto Affari Internazionali, the G7 represented weakness and lost political authority. However, they performed admirably on key dossiers such as Ukraine, Gaza, and China, indicating an apparent convergence among them and sending a message of togetherness.

The number one target was Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. In addition to the $50 billion loan to Ukraine, one day before the G7 conference began, the US announced a new solid round of penalties against Russian organizations and persons. On the sidelines of the ceremony, US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy inked a historic 10-year security accord, and Ukraine and Japan signed a similar agreement.

The complex issue of how to deal with China’s expanding global economic competition has seen European allies align with the United States, which has generally adopted a more hostile stance toward Beijing than they have. In an unusual step this week, the European Union imposed duties of up to nearly 50% on Chinese electric vehicles, signalling a significant shift in its trade policy. The United States did the same in May.

In a final statement issued by all G7 governments at the summit, the leaders expressed their concerns about “China’s persistent industrial targeting and comprehensive non-market policies and practices that are leading to global spillovers, market distortions, and harmful overcapacity in a growing range of sectors, undermining our workers, industries, and economic resilience and security.

The G7 appears to be more divided on the subject of abortion. The word “abortion” is missing from this year’s final statement, which bodes well for Meloni’s far-right party, which is opposed to it. In contrast, the final statement of last year’s meeting in Japan called for “access to safe and legal abortion”. This year’s ending statement solely addresses “comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.

Removing the ‘elitist’ veneer

And, while the club did come together around common problems, it was unclear whether it was successful in losing its elitist image and becoming more inclusive of other countries, notably those in the Global South, which was one of the summit’s primary stated goals.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni hosted the summit and invited many visitors, including the heads of India, Turkey, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates. Even Pope Francis made an appearance, which was unprecedented for a pontiff. These invitations reflect Meloni’s political goals in Africa and the Mediterranean. Still, they were also intended to widen the club’s reach, which is frequently criticized for being too Western and elite.

Like the other G7 members, Meloni understands that more than simply talking to each other is needed to solve international problems and combat challenges from China and Russia.

The question remains: how appealing is the G7 these days to outsiders? Questions concerning the organization’s authenticity have been introduced previously. The G7 used to account for 70% of world GDP, but that proportion has dropped to 40% now, despite representing one-tenth of the global population. Other worldwide organizations are expanding, indicating a significant shift in international power relations. As of January this year, the BRICS countries comprising India, Russia, and China have quadrupled their membership from five to ten.

Furthermore, protectionist policies and sanctions, two essential factors representing unity among G7 nations at this meeting, are a significant cause of suffering for others.

“One of the reasons why many countries are watching rather than acting is because a lot of these Western nations are taking actions that hurt their economies,” said Fredrik Erixon, an economist and head of the European Centre for International Political Economy. None of these Western leaders have the capacity to say ‘We want to open up our economy with them’ and that makes it difficult for other countries to support Western geopolitical goals.

The conflict in Gaza has exacerbated the difference. Western nations have been accused of double standards for their unflinching support for Ukraine while taking a far softer stance on Israel’s actions in the beleaguered Gaza Strip, where more than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed in eight months.

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In their final statement, the G7 backed Biden’s ceasefire plan, reiterating the group’s support for a two-state solution, including recognising a Palestinian state “at the appropriate time”.

The statement stated that Israel “must comply with its obligations under international law” and “refrain from” conducting an offensive in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah. However, it did not criticize Israel for its actions during the war, which is currently being reviewed by the International Court of Justice – the world’s highest court – in a genocide complaint filed by South Africa against Israel. According to sources, Canada and France advocated for stronger language on Israel’s activities in Gaza, but the United States and Germany rejected it.

For many countries around the world, the G7’s failure to adopt a stronger stance on the war in Gaza represents the starkest example of the West’s duplicity,” said Rafael Loss, EU security expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

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