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The G7 Ise-Shima Summit's Solid, Security-Centred Success

John Kirton, G7 Research Group
May 27, 2016


The G7's 42nd annual leaders' meeting, held at Ise-Shima, Japan, on May 26-27, 2016, proved to be a summit of solid, security-driven success (see Appendix). It produced impressive achievements on all its key security subjects of the South and East China Seas, Russia and Ukraine, North Korea and nuclear non-proliferation, terrorism and extremism, and Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. It did well enough on its central sustainable development subjects of gender, health, development and infrastructure investment. But it did poorly on its economic agenda, above all on the coordinated fiscal stimulus that its Japanese host sought the most and pursued to the end, and also on structural reform. It did better on trade, with its strong support for the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union and for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to be rapidly brought into force. It failed to a surprising degree on climate change and energy, the issues that had propelled Japan's first summit in 1979 and its latest in 2008 to strong success.


In the security realm, on the South China Sea, Japan mobilized all G7 leaders to publicly declare their commitment to "maintaining a rules-based maritime order" and "the fundamental importance of peaceful management and settlement of disputes" in the East and South China Seas, and to privately agree to support the imminent international court ruling in the Philippines case and keep addressing the issue at future G7 summits. On Russian aggression and annexation in Ukraine, they called for full respect for "the legal obligation to respect Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence," reiterated their "condemnation of the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia," their "sanctions against those involved," their readiness "to take further restrictive measures in order to increase [the] cost on Russia should its actions so require," and their support for a reforming Ukraine. On North Korea, leaders condemned "in the strongest possible terms North Korea's nuclear test in January and its subsequent launches using ballistic missile technology," called for full implementation and enforcement of the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and highlighted the human rights and abductions issue. On countering terrorism and violent extremism, they again unequivocally resolved not to pay ransoms to terrorists, to protect cultural properties and promote inclusive dialogue across "differences of opinion, culture and faith." On the war against Islamic State/Daesh in Syria and Iraq where several G7 members were using military force, leaders called for a ceasefire, asked Russia and Iran to comply, and again declared that Syrian president Assad must go, in favour of a "broad, inclusive, non-sectarian transitional governing body with full executive powers."

Sustainable Development

Sustainable development saw a few successes, starting with gender. Here Japan's priority of involving women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics was broadened at Canada's urging to add women's economic empowerment more generally, a robust treatment of sexual violence and women in conflict, with links of gender to climate change and health. Health itself covered a broad set of issues, with advances on antimicrobial resistance, and some movement on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Health Organization, and universal health coverage, even if almost no new money was raised for these causes and scant attention was given to non-communicable disease. Development and infrastructure received scant attention in the main declaration, as these subjects were largely left to discussions with the outreach countries from Asia and Africa, taking place right after the G7 summit itself had come to an end.

Economy and Trade

Economy and trade was marked by poorer performance. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe's first priority of securing coordinated fiscal stimulus from his G7 partners ended in failure, as they agreed to pursue fiscal policy flexibly, as national circumstances warranted, but always with a dominant requirement to keep their deficits and debt under control. Structural reform saw more success, as it was focused on sectors key to the innovative, green, productivity-enhancing industries and infrastructure of the future, backed by a spontaneous consensus in leaders' private discussions to share economic growth with a frustrated middle class. Leaders did better on trade, with strong support for the UK staying within the EU, a warm welcome for the TPP, but only pro forma support for the World Trade Organization.

Climate Change and Energy

Climate change and energy saw the weakest performance by far, and a steep drop from what the German-hosted Schloss Elmau Summit had produced the year before. To be sure, leaders pledged to take leadership and to ratify, accept or approve the Paris Agreement "as soon as possible." But they set no date to do so, let alone report that any of them have done so half a year after the Paris Agreement was forged. They also to formulate their "low greenhouse gas … emission development strategies well ahead of the 2020 deadline," but agreed to take stock of their and global progress only five years from now.

On climate finance they promised no new money of their own, even after reporting their previous promise to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020. They made no commitments to act on climate risk insurance, renewable energy in Africa or innovation. They just complacently welcomed what others had done.

There were baby steps taken on aviation, short-lived climate pollutants, hydrofluorocarbons and methane. But they took a backward step on fossil fuel subsidies, promising to eliminate them only a decade later than their previous G20 promise to do so by now. And there was not a word on the need to kill killer coal, as Canada and the UK had done.

This great failure on climate change was all the more surprising, given the increasingly urgent need to curb the rapid rise of greenhouse gas emissions and global temperatures. Japan's first G7 summit in 1979 invented the global governance of climate change with the most ambitious and effective control regime the world has ever seen. Japan's last G7 summit, hosted by Primer Minister Yasuo Fukuda, earned a full A grade for it impressive achievements to control climate change. Relative to the urgency and magnitude of the climate change threat now, Shinzo Abe's 2016 summit deserves a grade of F, for failing its own citizens and the world as a whole.

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Appendix: G7 Ise-Shima Summit Scorecard 2016

Overall Score C+/B− (Solid Success)
By Issue Area:  
Security (Foreign Policy) A
    South China Sea A+
    Russia/Ukraine A−
    North Korea A−
    Terrorism-Extremism A
    ISIS/Daesh A
Gender B+
Health B−
    Antimicrobial resistance A−
    Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria B+
    World Health Organization C+
    Universal health coverage C
    Non-communicable diseases D
Development C
Infrastructure C
Economy and Trade C−
    Macroeconomics F
    Structural reform C
    Brexit A
    Mega-regional trade agreements B
    World Trade Organization D
Climate Change and Energy F
    Paris Agreement ratification F
    Climate finance F
    Aircraft, methane C+
    Fossil fuel subsidies F−
    Coal F
    Decarbonization F

Most heavily weighted: Climate change as greatest global danger; coordinated fiscal stimulus (macroeconomics) as Shinzo Abe's first priority.

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