On June 26, Germany hosted a three-day summit of the Group of Seven (G7) wealthy economies, in hopes that rising prices, food security and conflict-driven energy challenges land at the core of the agenda. However, differing motivations for addressing these challenges, coupled with Washington’s preference for anti-China allegations, challenge the G7’s ability to deliver new results and overcome the perils of its Cold War mentality.
The first impediment to focusing on global challenges at the summit is the Joe Biden administration’s desire to target China. Groundless allegations of “coercive economic practices” stem from a sense of ideological containment that has constrained the G7’s appeal as a cooperative player in the past, and weakened its resolve to take-on energy and economic challenges comprehensively. Similar political campaigning for unilateral sanctions against Moscow has now come to bite growth prospects of several economies within the G7, raising questions about its appetite to overcome ideological prejudice, and stem a conflict that is big on economic repercussions.
Washington’s push to situate anti-China rhetoric within the G7 agenda, including so-called intellectual property theft allegations, is also a compromising look for a group that wants to come good on global economic stability. “They [leaders of the G7] will strengthen our cooperation on economic issues, cyberspace and quantum, and in particular, the challenges posed by China,” said a U.S. official recently.
On the one hand, this line of argument illustrates the discord between Germany and the United Kingdom on specific price control and food security measures, and Washington’s divergent, Cold War view of China containment. Rendering these splits as credible will be an uphill task for the G7, particularly with Indonesia, India, South Africa, Senegal and Argentina in attendance. Climate change, energy and food security are likely to have far more traction with these economies, testing the G7’s ability to rise above ideological calculations of the past.
The other challenge is whether any consensus led by a select grouping of “like-minded” countries would strike a chord with the Global South. History warrants pessimism. Consider past G7 failures in tackling global vaccine access, delivering aggressive climate action, and advancing diplomacy on the Ukraine-Russia conflict: all offer little in support of the group’s crisis leadership at the current summit. An underwhelming record of translating global pledges into action also casts doubt over the G7’s ability to credibly engage with several economies from the Global South. Downgraded growth prospects of major economies, and a looming threat of a recession, collectively limit G7’s latitude to generously fund core energy and food security interventions, despite the confidence.
On ideological grounds, the group’s sense of unity on pressing, non-traditional security threats also demands skepticism. Look no further than recent insights from the Munich Security Index special survey on G7: It confirms that the “determination and unity” mustered by like-minded democracies in wake of the Ukraine-Russia conflict does “not yet extend to the many other global challenges on the G7 agenda.” Speculation that the 48th Summit can offer important public diplomacy legwork ahead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s Madrid Summit also misses the point: The latter’s increased focus on beefing-up military defenses contrasts with the G7’s focus on controlling inflation and energy supply risks. The possibility of some aspects of these summits being viewed in conjunction gives outsized importance to what the West sees as security challenges, as opposed to the world at large.
For these reasons, the current summit is likely to be another exercise in demonstrating so-called unity that is largely confined to the club. G7 continues to attract space for Cold War ideologies, when in the words of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, it is clear that the grouping “won’t move mountains.”
Written By Hannan Hussain who is a foreign affairs commentator and author. He is a Fulbright recipient at the University of Maryland and a former assistant researcher at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute. The article reflects the author’s opinions and not necessarily the views of The Southern African Times.