The G7, which has led the world as the standard-bearer of free economy and democracy, is facing a crisis that may trigger its disintegration. This is a serious situation that will bring about a vacuum in the governance of the international community.
The G7 Charlevoix Summit, held in Canada on June 8-9, was engulfed in unprecedented turmoil. The rift worsened between the U.S., which was pushing ahead with its radical protectionist trade policies, and Europe and Canada, which were pressing it to revoke such policies.
President Donald Trump had no qualms about arriving late at meetings or excusing himself before they ended. He even declared that he would not accept the G7 leaders’ joint communique that was drawn up with great pains. This was an act showing contempt for the G7 that can’t be overlooked.
The G7, consisting of nations sharing common values, is indispensable for world stability. Even though the G7 nations’ influence is receding with the rise of the newly emerging countries, it is still of great significance that Japan, the U.S., and Europe remain united in leading consensus building in the international community.
The G7’s rift will undermine their ability to respond to financial crises, terrorism, and other international issues. This will give rise to vulnerabilities for China and Russia, countries ruled by oppressive leaders, to exploit in their attempt to challenge the existing international order. Is this in the U.S.’s national interest?
The important thing is for the U.S. to change course. We hope that it will exercise restraint on such inward-looking policies as protectionist trade and restriction of immigration and normalize its relations with its allies, partners, and international organizations.
The immediate cause of the G7’s dysfunction is the U.S.’s enforcement of import restrictions on steel and aluminum products. The Trump administration must revoke them immediately to avoid a trade war with the major powers.
Japan, Europe, and Canada must persist in emphasizing to the U.S. the importance of the G7. They must maintain the TPP, the Paris Agreement, the international framework for global warming prevention, and the Iran nuclear agreement even without the U.S. in order to contribute to global stability.
Trump asked the G7 to allow Russia, which was expelled over its annexation of Crimea in 2014, to rejoin the group, incurring the ire of the European members. There is no reason to take back the problematic Russia.
Eight nations, including China and Russia, held a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Qingdao, China, on June 9-10. They showcased their unity and confirmed their intent to work together to resist the trend toward protectionism, as if to upstage the G7.
It is ironical that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are acting like they are the standard-bearers of free trade. It would be troubling if the G7 continues to go adrift and comes to be replaced by a group of authoritarian states.