With the first G7 summit held in the last two years, the indications are not too bright. Issues forced member countries to recheck alliances. Meanwhile, during talks on specific issues, palpable tensions filled many of the meeting rooms.
G7 Summit Reaches The Pandemic Age of Meetings
So far, the first G7 summit pandemic produced a mixed bag of results. Even with new leadership, the United States isn’t really back. Europe hasn’t united anymore, while Brexit happened somehow. With the rest of the world watching, there were a few telling moments.
For one, this is the first G7 summit in two years and serves as the primer for international meetings in the post-pandemic age.
This was also the first meeting post-Donald Trump, who broke a few alliances and kept everybody on edge. At the same time, this also marks the last G7 summit for German chancellor Angela Merkel, a 16-year veteran.
Awkward Meetings in UK
Set against the pandemic, many awkward moments happened as leaders tried to conform to social distancing requirements. Meanwhile, the UK, the host country, struggled with maintaining live feeds and providing transportation.
Despite the continued logistical nightmares, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson managed to hold a somewhat successful, but awkward summit. In fact, the G-7 managed to issue a unified communique, which during Trump’s time, proved more difficult than they previously thought.
The awkward attempts by world leaders to show unity failed in many instances. Given that they spent the last two years managing their affairs at home, meeting up with other leaders seemed to take much effort.
Photos of Johnson left hanging in an attempt to elbow-bump a masked Merkel-dominated news feeds. In addition, photos of a barbecue dinner showed nobody seems to take social distance protocols seriously. These all hint at tensions under the surface. They cover everything from their stand on China to the issue of climate change.
Brexit and China
Among the contentious issues where G7 summit leaders failed to agree on is the UK’s decision to move away from the EU. In the discussions over the unresolved issues after the nasty divorce, Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron exchanged heated words. Meanwhile, Merkel sought to play peacemaker even as the Brexit talks ended up nowhere.
In addition, Merkel downplayed the role of President Joe Biden. She told reporters that just because the US elected a new president, it “doesn’t mean that the world no longer has problems” to contend with.
Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi acknowledged a positive and realistic feeling over the summit, but they still need to come to terms on a few issues. This includes “what attitude the G7 should have toward China and other autocracies.”
Biden Wants US To Take Back The G7 Reins
For his part, Biden badly wanted to rebuild US alliances with the other G7 summit members. However, that would take more than announcing that the US is back.
Merkel put it more bluntly when she said that Europeans will “be frank on what we can’t accept,” signaling that the time of US domination is over.
Incidentally, the German PM remains bitter over the US and UK’s decision to disallow exports of vaccines during the high point of the pandemic. In contrast, the EU, as they struggled to distribute vaccines among their citizens, sent shots to both countries.
Experts believed that even as the G7 summit leaders welcomed Biden, they did so mainly because he is not the combative Trump. And even if the US indicated their willingness to play ball again with the G7, the new normal means the US won’t get to dictate the agenda.
Instead, the G7 is gearing into putting every member on an equal footing with the others when it comes to important matters.
The China Conundrum
As for how to deal with China, the G7 members still remain subtly apart. The joint communique called for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19, which rumors say happened due to a lab leak in Wuhan.
Some of the European leaders publicly said they don’t believe the lab leak theory. However, they did agree to support the call for a probe.
Making matters worse, the G7 summit failed to come up with a unified front on how to deal with China’s growing economic powers. Germany and Italy are not in the mood to go along with the US’s anti-China rhetoric.
In particular, they felt this wasn’t reflective of the earlier dialogue with Biden. Even so, the final version of the statement on China was weaker than what the US wanted. Other members prevailed in softening the language when it came to China.
Europeans Caught In The Middle
Europeans have more at stake in the jostling between the US and China. The latter is set to overtake the US economically faster than expected. This explains why the members across the pond are more hesitant in supporting the US’s anti-China rhetoric.
France’s Macron sought the middle ground as he welcomed Biden to the group warmly. At the same time, he said France wanted to find ways to work with China.
This means that the G7 shouldn’t advertise itself as an anti-China club, even as they see Beijing as an “economic rival.”
Meanwhile, China remains unperturbed with the G7 Summit. Its London embassy dismissed the results of the talks as irrelevant. According to an embassy statement, “the days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone.”
Watch the CBC News reported that the G7 summit wraps with pledges on COVID-19, climate, and China:
What do you think of the G7 Summit? Are alliances between select developed countries still relevant in today’s world? Do they even have anything in common nowadays?
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