G7 leaders gather in Cornwall on June 11-13 for their most important summit since the start in 1975. They will produce a strong success, perhaps the strongest of all time.
G7 Summit Performance, 1975-2020
The vision for G7 summitry, from United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, was trialed when leaders of the U.S., United Kingdom, France and Germany met at the British Embassy in Helsinki in the summer of 1975. It was launched when they assembled, along with their counterparts from Japan and Italy, at Rambouillet, France, in November 1975. Their communique proclaimed the distinctive mission of their new club – to protect within their own countries and promote globally the values of open democracy and human rights. It is a mission with even greater relevance and inspiration for the G7 leaders today.
Since then, with Canada joining in 1976 and the European Commission in 1977, the leaders at G7 summits engage in the free, frank, intense and intimate face-to face discussions that no other diplomatic format allows. They come to consensus on the central principles and norms that shape G7 and global governance. They make many public, collective, precise, future-oriented politically binding commitments, backed by the full force of the exceptional strength of the most powerful leaders of the most powerful rich democracies in the world.
In 1975 they started with 14 commitments on the central economic, social, ecological and political-security challenges of the time. In 2015 in Elmau, Germany, they produced an all time high of 376 commitments, contributing to their cumulative total of 5,403 by 2021.
These commitments count. They have been complied with at an average level of 76% after the leaders descend from the summit peak to return to the often dark valley’s of domestic politics back home. Compliance steadily rose, from 65% from 1975 to 1989, to 71% at Birmingham with a democratizing Russia there, to 85% at Brussels in 2014 with Russia suspended for its annexation of the Crimean region of Ukraine. It remained high at 81% at Charlevoix, Canada in 2018, where Donald Trump represented the U.S.
On the subjects taking centre stage at Cornwall, compliance with health commitments was 75%, climate change 74%, the natural environment and energy 82%, and development 74%. On the important political-security subjects, weapons non-proliferation was 82%, regional security 81% and terrorism 78%.
Compliance was led by the EU at 85%, the UK at 84% and Canada at 82%, followed by Germany at 79%, the US at 78%, France at 75%, Japan at72% and Italy at 62%.
Compliance with the commitments of last years’ virtual summit, hosted by Donald Trump on March 16, 2020, is an unprecedentedly high 94% With its many commitments to conquer COVID-19, compliance is 98%. Overall compliance is led by the EU and Germany at 98%, followed by the U. S. and France at 95%, the UK at 93%, Canada at 90% and Japan at 83%.
Among the G7 summit’s many achievements, several transformational one stand out.
In 1975, at Rambouillet, leaders created a new regime of managed floating exchange rates, countered the assaults from the East and South, and fostered the democratization of a long authoritarian Spain.
In 1979, in Tokyo, leaders conquered the second oil shock and pioneered the global governance of climate change, with the most ambitious and effective control regime ever seen.
In 1989 in Paris, G7 leaders won the long cold war when they received from Mikhail Gorbachev a letter of surrender on behalf of the Soviet system. This swiftly led to the disappearance of the Soviet bloc and USSR, as the democratic revolution rolled out throughout the world.
In 2002 at Kananaskis, Canada, in the first G7 summit after the Al Qaeda mega-terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 20021, G7 leaders launched new initiatives to counter terrorism, partner with Africa, destroy Russia’s weapons of mass destruction and have Russia host the G7 summit in 2006.
In 2005 at Gleneagles in the U.K., they raised over $250 billion dollars for poor countries in debt relief, aid, trade and AIDS, while responding to the terrorist attacks in London as they met.
In 2014 at Brussels, G7 leaders, swiftly returned to their G7 format, sanctioned Russia and stopped its further territorial expansion into Ukraine.
In 2018 at Charlevoix, Canada, leaders pioneered ambitious action on gender equality, the oceans and authoritarian countries’ interference in elections in democratic states.
Prospects for Cornwall
On this firm foundation, G7 leaders at their Cornwall Summit will produce major achievements on the even greater challenges they confront.
On COVD-19, still surging in the world with more dangerous variants now infecting G7 countries, G7 leaders will promise to vaccinate everyone everywhere by the end of 2022, directly deliver medical supplies, and donate vaccines doses and dollars for poor countries to buy more. They will help poor regions manufacture their own vaccines and strengthen their healthcare systems to get them into people’s arms.
On commerce, springing back to life as economic recovery returns, G7 leaders will commit to reform international taxation to raise the revenues they badly need, in the fairer way their voters want. They will promise to control their surging deficits, debts, inflation and interest rates, once their badly needed jobs, incomes and businesses robustly and reliably return. They will also contain the mounting debt burdens and defaults in poorer countries, by leading within the International Monetary Fund and multilateral development banks they control to raise much more finance.
On climate change, they will agree to stop financing foreign coal, finally end fossil fuel subsidies, and minimize methane emissions. The will strengthen climate finance standards and disclosure and mobilize nature-based solutions more than ever before.
On conflict and competition with an anti-democratic China and Russia they will defend Ukraine and Alexi Navalny and sanction Belarus for its blatant violation of basic international law. They will similarly show China that its aggressive actions on Hong Kong, Xinjiang, arbitrary detention, Taiwan and the south and east China Sea are unacceptable. On nuclear proliferation they will pave the way to control the mounting threat from an impoverished Iran and starving North Korea.
Their greatest challenge is simultaneously finding a way to co-operate with China and Russia on the shared existential threats of climate change and biodiversity loss, before it is too late.