Getting the Band Back Together: The UK and the 2021 G7 Summit

The G7 summit this year is a key opportunity to reassert the importance of Western unity in international affairs. Here is an outline of how this could be done.

The G7 summit, due to take place in Carbis Bay, Cornwall on 11–13 June, will be an important opportunity for the West to come together after its near-death experience during the Trump years.

But disputes about whether the G7 structure should be replaced altogether by a D10, adding Australia, India and South Korea to its membership, are now diverting attention – and the precious time of senior officials – from the substantive issues on the agenda.

It is a long time since the combined weight of the G7 was overwhelming enough for it to credibly claim to be the world’s ‘executive council’ for tackling global economic crises. But it remains uniquely placed to be the forum for Western leaders to thrash out common positions across a wide range of issues, which can help them promote their shared interests in broader discussions. Neither NATO nor the OECD can fulfil this function. The G20, while important, plays a very different role.

The existing G7 members – the US, Japan, Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Canada and the EU – have much in common. They are all high-income market economies, with robust liberal democratic institutions (albeit fraying in some cases). They are also close military allies, forming the core of the US-led alliance network that has been in place for seven decades.

The experience of the last four years of President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ approach has imposed enormous strain on this unity, calling into question the credibility of US security guarantees in Europe and East Asia, and raising the spectre of go-it-alone economic policies. Meanwhile China happily exploits divisions in Western ranks, sealing separate trade and investment deals with the US, the EU and its Asian neighbours, and imposing punitive sanctions against Australia without much comeback from its allies.

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