DemDaily: The Group of Seven

May 18, 2023

President Biden left Wednesday for Japan to attend the 49th annual Group of Seven (G-7) summit meeting in Hiroshima, Japan, where leaders of the major industrial democracies will discuss the challenges facing the international community -- with the Russia-Ukraine war at the top of the agenda.

The G7 is an intergovernmental coalition organized around shared values of pluralism and representative government, with members making up the world's largest advanced economies and liberal democracies. It includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the European Union (EU).

The G7 regards itself as "a community of values," with freedom and human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and prosperity and sustainable development as its key principles.

In the early 1970s, in the wake of the oil crisis, developed countries recognized the need to create an international forum to discuss policy coordination of macroeconomics, currency, trade, and energy at a leadership level.

The initial group of six of the West's richest nations first met in 1975 in Rambouillet, France. Canada joined the following year. Russia joined the group in 1998 but was expelled in 2014 after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

The annual G7 summits now serve as a platform for determining the course of multilateral discourse and shaping political responses to worldwide challenges. Although the summit doesn't have any legal or political authority, decisions by the democratic nations have the power to shift the direction of global economic growth.

The presidency of the group changes every year. As the 2023 president, Japan will host several meetings on economic, environmental, health, trade, technology, development and foreign policy issues throughout the year.

"The international community is now at a historic turning point, having experienced the COVID-19 pandemic and being faced with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, which has shaken the very foundation of the international order." - Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio

President Biden is expected to spearhead the effort to secure additional support among Western allies for the war-torn country of Ukraine -- now in its 15th month of defending itself against aggression by Russian, which has also threatened the use of nuclear weapons.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will join G-7 leaders via video link on May 21st, when he is expected to appeal for more defense weaponry, air power and humanitarian assistance.

The threat of China's economic, technological and military rise will also be a major focus. Tensions between China and other leading G-7 nations, including the US, are at a high over China's territorial claim over Taiwan. Biden is also expected to announce a curbing of US firms’ ability to invest in Chinese industries -- particularly tech -- to counter its perceived use of “economic coercion” against other countries. In response to deepening US-China antagonism, French President Emanuel Macron called for a thawing of relations between Europe and China after visiting Beijing last month.

The Official Agenda
• Regional/Ukraine: Responding to Russia's aggression against Ukraine in a united manner to strongly promote sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine.
• Regional/Indo-Pacific: Reaffirming and strengthening cooperation on the "Free and Open Indo-Pacific."
Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation: Advancing realistic and practical efforts to take countries from “the reality” of the harsh security environment to the “ideal” of a world without nuclear weapons.
Economic Resilience and Economic Security: Supporting resilient supply chains,coordinating non-market policies and practices, and resisting economic coercion.
• Climate and Energy: Working toward the goal of achieving net-zero by 2050 based on the Paris Agreement. A blueprint for resilient transitions, noting different national and regional circumstances, while calling on major emitters to make further efforts.
• Food: Addressing the food crisis. Identifying structural vulnerabilities in the global food system and setting pathways to overcome them, while addressing pressing food issues in the short term.
• Health: Lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic: strengthen the global health architecture, especially prevention, preparedness and response for future pandemics, equitable and sustainable universal health coverage and health innovation.
• Development: Addressing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Supporting vulnerable people left behind in crisis, "human security" and the "human-centered approach," and addressing unfair development finance.
• Other Areas: Gender, Human Rights, Digitalization and Science and Technology.

The nominal GDP of the seven G-7 countries, along with the European Union, represent more than half the global economy: the United States ($22.9tn), Japan ($4.4tn), Germany ($4.3tn), the UK ($3.2tn), France ($2.9tn), Italy ($2.2tn) and Canada ($2.1tn), together with the 24 other EU member states ($7.7tn).

One of the biggest threats to world economic stability, however, is taking place in the United States -- where House Republicans are holding debt ceiling negotiations hostage as the June 1 deadline looms.

President Biden was forced to cancel the second leg of his trip to Asia to return to Washington, DC to work with both parties on achieving a debt limit increase to avoid a potential default. Should the US default on its debt, it would have a ripple effect on the global economy, with disastrous consequences.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: G-7 Summit, New York Times, VOA, White House, CNBC. IMF, Kyodo News

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