Seven takeaways from G7
Lord Jitesh Gadhia.
Eastern Eye Staff
By Lord Jitesh Gadhia
IN THE run-up to last weekend’s G7 meeting in Cornwall, expectations were running high.
The first physical gathering of world leaders since the start of the pandemic provided an opportunity to address a whole series of pressing policy issues, ranging from vaccines and post-pandemic recovery to climate action and trade barriers.
It was also US president Joe Biden’s debut on the world stage and provided British prime minister Boris Johnson with a platform to project his vision for Global Britain.
These are my seven key reflections on the G7 summit:
America, and multilateralism, are back: The era of former US president Donald Trump proved that without close transatlantic collaboration, the G7 quickly becomes dysfunctional.
President Biden has reset the relationship with America’s allies, and in the words of our prime minister, provides “a breath of fresh air”. Certain issues can only be tackled with collective leadership. The US is now back at the helm, leading the western alliance of democratic nations, which is the biggest positive outcome of the 2021 G7 meeting.
British soft power is alive and kicking: Our prime minister was keen to take full advantage of chairing and hosting the G7. The Cornish seaside resort of Carbis Bay proved an inspired choice of venue, providing the right atmospherics and backdrop for the deliberations.
More substantively, it allowed the UK to demonstrate that Brexit was not a harbinger for retreat from global co-operation. If anything, leaving the EU has spurred a more internationalist mindset, reinforced by inviting Australia, India, South Africa and South Korea as guest participants.
All the other ingredients came together too. For once the British weather was compliant, the Red Arrows put on another spectacular display and Sir David Attenborough was wheeled out to emphasise the importance of political will in addressing climate change.
But the stardust came, yet again, from the royal family – led by the Queen – who hosted the G7 leaders and their spouses at the Eden Project in Cornwall. The whole G7 package was a display of Britain’s soft power par excellence.
The Brexit legacy still lingers: Notwithstanding the success of the British diplomatic effort, the tensions over the Northern Ireland protocol cast a shadow over an otherwise cordial meeting.
With no sign of either side backing down, and the US emphasising the personal importance the president attaches to the Good Friday Agreement, the pressure on the UK to compromise will only increase. Unlike under Trump, the success of the EU is now a core part of US foreign policy. That policy shift was clear and visible for all to see.
India’s geopolitical role is expanding: Prime minister Narendra Modi was invited as a guest to the G7 and participated virtually, given the heightened Covid situation in India. His emphasis on ‘One Earth, One Health’ struck a chord and reminded western leaders that vaccinating the world was not only the right thing to do but also was in their own self-interest.
Modi also noted that India is the only G20 country on track to meet its Paris climate commitments.
The pivot of western foreign policy towards the Indo- Pacific region, providing a balance to China, means that India will play an increasingly important role at the top table in world affairs. How India rises to this unique opportunity, to position itself as a leader among open democratic societies, will define its own destiny.
Pandemic and vaccine supplies remain top priority: While the promise of one billion additional vaccines for the poorest countries was a welcome announcement from the G7, this commitment highlights the mountain yet to be climbed. The world needs an estimated 11 billion doses to vaccinate all adults. How supply of doses can be ramped up and delivered on the ground will remain the biggest short-term issue during the rest of 2021 and into next year.
Commitment to “build back better” through sustained spending: The G7 countries have provided a staggering $12 trillion (£8.5tr) in fiscal and liquidity support for their economies during pandemic. This has included unprecedented levels of quantitative easing from central banks. Instead of phasing out these interventions, and taking steps to improve government finances, there is a strong impetus to sustain investment spending, especially on healthcare, green infrastructure and skills.
Western democracies – even with centre-right governments – have clearly embraced an era of big government and high state spending with the aim of “levelling up” opportunities for all their citizens.
Climate change is the biggest forward challenge: Every G7 summit is targeted by protesters and their activity this year, was again focused on climate, nature and sustainability.
This is undoubtedly the biggest strategic challenge facing the world and progress was made on ceasing unabated coal power generation and meeting climate finance commitments. However, greater momentum is required ahead of COP26 in November.
In many ways, the G7 provided a “warm-up” for this much bigger summit being co-hosted by UK in Glasgow this year. It will represent a quantum leap in scale and scope from the G7 – involving over 200 countries – with global attention focused on this defining moment for the planet.
The prime minister and Alok Sharma, the president of COP26, have their work cut out to meet these even higher expectations.