Every year the leaders of the seven biggest world economies meet at the G7 summit. This year the event is in Quebec, hosted by the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. With a trade war bubbling, and Donald Trump boiling over, could it get any more tense?
The American President has recently imposed controversial tariffs on steel and aluminium, and Europe has retaliated by imposing tariffs on American products ranging from whiskey to jeans. French President Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to voice his outrage, going as far as saying he wouldn’t mind “signing a 6 country agreement if need be”. How did Trump respond? He descended into one of his infamous “tweet storms”, attacking both Canada and the EU.
Meanwhile, Theresa May has been a little less hot-tempered. She has chosen to focus on two main issues during this summit: Cracking down on misogynistic cyber bullying and ending plastic pollution. This weekend will also give her a chance to have a quiet word with Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, before the upcoming EU summit. May will also use this summit to restate her commitment to ensuring a coherent international response to chemical weapons after the Salisbury attack carried out by Russia earlier this year.
In contrast, upon arriving at the summit Donald Trump made clear his support for allowing Russia back into the G7. He also reiterated his tweets accusing Canada and the EU of hurting American workers with their tariffs. Trump’s high profile disagreements such as refusing to back the Paris Climate Change Agreement or the Iran Nuclear Deal have lead many to label this summit the “G6+1”.
But Trump isn’t the only World leader having a hard time. Italy’s Giuseppe Conte is struggling to lead an unstable coalitions back at home in Italy, and is unpopular among other EU leaders. Although he has mostly remained in the background, Conte has come out to back Donald Trump in calling for Russia to rejoin the G7.
Why is letting Russia back in such a big deal?
Russia was removed from the former G8 in 2014 as a direct response over the annexation of Crimea. Russia has given little in the way of apologies, and many believe allowing them to rejoin would be against the G7s core ethical and moral values.
Although many of the planned discussions will be overshadowed by talk of trade wars and Russians, this year’s host Justin Trudeau did set five themes for the summit: Inclusive economic growth; gender equality and women’s empowerment; world peace and security; jobs of the future; climate change and oceans. There will also be plenty of photo shoots, and a program of cultural and local events for the leaders’ spouses to attend.
Trump will be leaving early to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, so won’t be at discussions on climate change. It’s unlikely that he’ll be missed. When it comes to environmental issues, the American President could hardly disagree more with the rest of the G7.
Last year in Italy’s summit he was the only leader not to sign the Paris Agreement, a global commitment to reducing carbon emissions. In 2017 the Trump administration ended a six year long policy allowing National parks to ban the sale of bottled water on their sites, so discussions on what to do to curb plastic waste could get very awkward indeed.
But the G7 isn’t all serious. It provides a rare opportunity for world leaders to spend time together in a fairly informal environment, far away from the press. What do world leaders talk about? We can’t know for certain, but it’s likely they’ll take this chance to complain about things back at home, or just have a bit of chit chat about the family. Despite the tweet storms and complex diplomatic tiptoeing, they are just humans after all.