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A G7 Summit of Significant Success
at Charlevoix 2018
John Kirton, G7 Research Group
July 13, 2018
The G7's Charlevoix Summit was a significant substantive success, fully worthy of getting a B+ grade at its end. It produced several important achievements across its five priorities of inclusive economic growth, jobs of the future, gender equality and women's empowerment, climate change, healthy oceans and clean energy, and peace and security. But shortly after the public presentation of its achievements announced in its hard-won consensus communiqué, two tweets from a by then absent U.S. president Donald Trump threatened to turn it into a public relations failure, at least in its media presentation and popular memory beyond.
Its standout, signature successes started with its ultimate priority of gender equality, which was uniquely to be mainstreamed throughout all the issues it addressed. Here Charlevoix mobilized $3.8 billion new money to educate poor girls in conflict zones and thus rebuild their communities as well. This was almost three times as much as the leading Canadian non-governmental organizations had asked for from the start. Save the Children estimated that another 8.67 million children would be educated as a result.
Charlevoix also produced an additional $3 billion over the next two years from all G7 members' development finance institutions and their private sector partners for women's economic empowerment. And because French president Emmanuel Macron said he would continue gender equality as a priority when he hosts the G7 next year, Trudeau's central Charlevoix legacy will live on for another year.
On oceans, five members signed on to a G7 pledge to prevent plastics pollution. Canada committed $100 million to this cause. The G7 also agreed to reinforce the resilience of coastal communities. Canada as host pledged an additional $162 million. This provided a powerful platform on which to build when Canada hosts the meeting of G7 ministers of the environment and climate change, oceans and energy at Halifax on September 19-21. It also made Charlevoix a $7 billion summit in the money it mobilized for global public goods, above all for the most vulnerable and poor.
The most surprising success came on the divisive issue of trade. Despite the many dire predictions of a six-versus-one dispute that would contaminate the consensus existing elsewhere, the talks on trade were civilized and contained, if vigorous and blunt. No new harm done there.
On the important component of the summit process, success appeared almost everywhere. The great drama over whether the summit would culminate in a consensus communiqué to which all members had agreed was resolved at the very end when such an eight-page, single-spaced, 28-paragraph communiqué was triumphantly produced. It also conveyed the leaders' authority in an additional eight documents of "commitments" released separately to highlight the importance the host wished to attach to them.
This was a fitting end to a process that began when all leaders attended the summit, arrived at the start and attended, and engaged seriously and with collegiality in all the sessions while there. This included the innovative breakfast meeting on the second day between members of Trudeau's Gender Equality Advisory Council and all G7 leaders, including Donald Trump. Although Trump did leave mid-morning on the second day, to fly to his historic summit in distant Singapore with North Korea's leader on June 12, his early departure only followed the precedent set by G7 leaders from several countries at G7 summits past.
The Charlevoix Summit's significant success is seen in its performance on the major dimensions of global governances that such summits perform, above all in the decisional commitments it produced (see Appendix A).
On the first dimension of domestic political management, on the component of direct communiqué compliments to G7 members, performance was very low. There were no compliments (or criticisms) in all of the eight documents produced. This compares with two from 2017, which was Donald Trump's first G7 summit, 22 from 2016 and the 4.2 average from 1975 to 2017.
On the domestic political management component of media attention, performance was very strong. Internationally, the elite global financial daily, the Financial Times (which does not publish on Sundays) gave the Charlevoix Summit held on Friday, June 8, and Saturday, June 9, direct front-page coverage as the headline on Saturday edition as well as the Monday, June 11, and Tuesday, June 13, editions (now as part of the U.S.–North Korea Singapore Summit). In the U.S. the New York Times on Sunday, June 10, did so too, devoting two front-page stories above the fold plus a large picture.
In Canada, the elite English-language daily newspaper, the Globe and Mail (which does not publish on Sundays) gave Charlevoix front-page coverage on Saturday, June 9, Monday, June 11, Wednesday, June 13, and Saturday, June 16, but not on Tuesday, June 12, when the Singapore Summit dominated.
International media approval, conveyed through these daily newspaper editorials and companion opinion-editorials was low, but in a three-tiered way. It was overwhelmingly and constantly negative about Trump's performance at the summit. But it was less negative about the summit itself, and positive about its host Justin Trudeau. In its three editorials on the summit from June 11 to 15, the Financial Times judged the G7 negatively twice and neutrally once, the United States negatively all three times, and Canada neutrally once and positively once. The Financial Times seven opinion editorials judged the G7 and the United States negatively all seven times, but Canada negatively once and positively twice.
In Canada, media approval of the G7 and Canada was solid. The Global and Mail's three editorials from June 9 to 16 judged the G7 positively all three times, the United States negatively twice and Canada positively twice. Its four opinion editorials, however, judged the G7 negatively three times and neutrally once, the United States negatively three times and Canada neutrally, negatively and positively once each.
On the component of public opinion, performance was strongly positive for the host (see Appendix B). In the Nanos Ballot Poll reported on May 29 in the lead-up to the Charlevoix Summit, for the first time since their election in October 2015 Trudeau's Liberals had fallen behind the opposition Conservatives. By June 5, after intense summit coverage had started, they climbed back to a first-place tie at 34% each. By June 12, in the poll covering the four weeks to the summit's start on June 8, they had regained the lead by 2.3%, at 35.3% to 33.0%. A week later on June 19, covering the four weeks to June 15, six days after the summit ended, the Liberal lead had surged to a 4.4% lead, well beyond the 3% margin of error. The Liberals were at 36.9%, Conservatives at 32.5%, Greens at 5.1%, New Democratic Party (NDP) at 4.1% and Bloc Québécois at 4.1%. By June 18, an Ipsos poll showed Trudeau's approval ratings up 6% to the 50% level, even if the Conservative party remained slightly ahead of his Liberal party (Ibbitson 2018).
Moreover an Ipsos poll of Canadians and Americans taken on June 13-14, found "72 percent of Canadians and 52 per cent of Americans approved of the way Mr. Trudeau had handled the situation" about the summit, while only "14 percent of Canadians and 37% of Americans approved of Mr. Trump's behaviour" (Hopkins 2018). A full 88% of Canadians welcomed the support from other Canadian political parties for Trudeau's decision to retaliate against the U.S. metal tariffs imposed on Canada. A majority of 57% of Canadians and 52% of Americans "said Canada should not overreact to Trump's comments because it was just political posturing."
In Germany, however, by June 20, support for Merkel's fragile governing Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union coalition fell below 50%, imperilling her chance of forming a government if a snap election were held (Financial Times 2018).
In its re-election impact, Charlevoix's performance seemed weak for its host. Although Trudeau's next general election was 16 months later, in October 2019, a federal by-election on June 18 in Chicoutimi–Le Ford in francophone Quebec near Charlevoix saw the Conservatives win with about 53% of the vote (Ibbitson 2018). The Liberals (which held the seat) came a distant second with 29%, the NDP (which won the seat in 2011) had 9%, and the Bloc (which had held the seat from 2004 to2011) had 6%. Although the region contained four smelters, representing one third of Canada's aluminum production, there was no "rally effect" from Trudeau's tough response to the 10% aluminum tariffs Trump had imposed on Canada on May 30.
On the second performance dimension, deliberation, its private component of conversation at the summit was strong. At the collective summit sessions over two days, there was vigorous engagement from all leaders at all the sessions held while they were at the summit site.
The on-site bilaterals, saw at least nine encounters between pairs of G7 members. Canada as host led with four meetings, one each with the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy and the United States. Also in first with four was Italy, as its brand new leader Giuseppe Conte met with the leaders from Canada, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Then came the United Kingdom with three, with Canada, Japan and Italy. Japan had two, with Canada and the United Kingdom. France had two, with Italy and Germany. Germany had two, with France and Italy. The United States had only one, with Canada.
Thus, in this on-site bilateral summit sociogram, Canada as host came first, and Trump's United States came last; Canada was the hub and America was almost alone.
In the public component of deliberation as measured by the communiqué conclusions, Charlevoix's performance was significant. It produced nine documents, all in the form of pre-agreed consensus communiqués, and no discretionary chair's summary or statement at all. The nine documents contained a total of 11,224 words. The communiqué had 4,054 words or 36% of the total; the Charlevoix Commitment on Equality and Economic Growth had 927 or 8%; the Charlevoix Commitment on Innovative Financing for Development had 770 or 7%; the Charlevoix Common Vision for the Future of Artificial Intelligence had 680 or 6%; the Charlevoix Declaration on Quality Education for Girls, Adolescent Girls and Women in Developing Countries had 1,304 or 12%; the Charlevoix Commitment to End Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, Abuse and Harassment in Digital Contexts had 655 or 6%; the Charlevoix Commitment on Defending Democracy from Foreign Threats had 419 or 4%; the Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Coastal Communities had 1,490 or 13%; and the G7 Oceans Plastics Charter had 915 or 8%.
This total of 11,224 words and nine documents compared well with Taormina's 8,614 words and four outcome documents and surpassed the annual average of 10,183 words and 5.4 documents from 1975 to 2017. It far surpassed the average of the five previous Canadian-hosted G7 summits of 6,881 words and 5.8 documents.
Of the eight separate, subject-specific documents, Trudeau's summit priorities of climate change, oceans and clean energy led with two documents of 2,405 words or 21%. Gender equality and women's empowerment came a close second with two documents of 1,959 words or 18%. Each of the other three priorities had one devoted document, while the subject of development had the eighth.
On the third dimension of performance, principled and normative direction setting, Charlevoix's performance was substantial. Its nine documents issued in the leaders' name affirmed the G7's foundational principles of open democracy 33 times and those of individual liberty (expressed as human rights) 23 times. Affirmations of democracy or human rights came in eight of the nine Charlevoix documents. Only the plastics charter had none. The Charlevoix total of 56 affirmations of either democracy or human rights was only one third the level of such affirmations in last year's Taormina communiqués, but twice as high as the annual G7 summit average of 28.2 from 1975 to 2017. Charlevoix thus doubled the performance of the historic G7 summit norm, even if it fell well below the production of the previous year.
On the fourth dimension of performance, decision making, Charlevoix was a strong success. It produced 315 precise, future-oriented, politically binding commitments in its nine documents. The main communiqué contained 84. This was far more than the 72 commitments produced in all the leaders' documents at the last G8 summit Canada had hosted, at Muskoka in June 2010. It was more than three times as many as the average of 81 produced at all five earlier Canadian-hosted summits. Charlevoix's 315 significantly surpassed the 180 produced at Donald Trump's first G7 summit, in Taormina in Italy in 2017, and the 117 average at all annual G7 summits from 1975 to 2017.
By subject, the environment came first with 92 commitments for 29% of the total. It was followed in turn by gender with 71 for 23%, development with 32 for 10%, information and communications technologies with 23 for 7%, democracy with 16 for 5%, macroeconomic policy with 13 for 4%, climate change with 12 for 3%, and labour and employment with 11 for 3%. Thus, well over 80% of the commitments came in the five priority subjects that Trudeau had set for the summit. The first place for the environment at 29%, along with climate change at 3% meant about one third reflected the issue that Canadians had said was their foremost international issue of concern (Kirton 2018).
Compared to the distribution of commitments by subjects at past summits, climate change and the environment with 32% at Charlevoix did much better than their 10% average from 1975 to 2017 (see Appendices C and D). Gender at 23% did vastly better than its traditional 3%. In contrast, Charlevoix's decisional performance lagged far behind the G7's traditional top five subjects of, in turn, development, energy, health, terrorism and trade. With its climate-environment and gender commitments taking 55% or over half of the commitments, Charlevoix acted on a distinctly different agenda than the G7 had before. While trade may have taken a greater share of the private discussions, when Donald Trump was present, and dominated the media coverage overall, trade took only a tiny 2% fraction of the many decisions Charlevoix produced.
On the fifth dimension of performance, the delivery of these decisions through members' compliance with their commitments, performance seems promising. Many passages in the nine documents showed that the leaders knew they needed to comply, and promised to do so. They made several explicit references to this in their central communiqué, including one on jobs for the future, one on advancing gender equality and women's empowerment, five on economic growth that works for everyone, and seven on peace and security. Moreover, most of these commitments came in issue areas where the G7's historical record of compliance has been substantial, even if those on gender have been small (see Appendix E).
On the sixth dimension, the institutional development of global governance, performance was solid. To be sure, there was only one reference to institutions inside the G7, specifically a reference in the blueprint to the G7 ministerial meeting on the environment, oceans and clean energy. Five commitments in all were explicitly linked to the Halifax meeting. Still this was much lower than the 18 references to G7 institutions made in 2017.
They agreed that France would host the G7 and its summit next year.
There were 21 references to institutions outside the G7. They were led by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) with three. It was followed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) with two. Having one each were the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank, Paris Club, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, African Union (AU), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), United Nations General Assembly, the OECD's Development Assistance Committee, InsuResilience Global Partnership, Interpol, Regional Fisheries Management Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, and United Nations Environment Programme.
This Charlevoix level and spread compared to 26 references last year. They were led by the UNSC with five, followed by the OECD with four, the International Labour Organization with four, the UN with three, the AU with three, the G20 with two, and the OSCE, WTO, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Interpol with one each.
In 2010, the last time Canada hosted, there were 52 references to international institutions outside the G7. They were led by the UN with 19, the World Health Organization (WHO) with five, the World Bank with four and the Global Fund, the UNFCCC the International Atomic Energy Association with three each.
Leaders in their communiqué also thanked the "formal engagement groups," without listing each by name. They further thanked the Gender Equality Advisory Council, which was a body struck by the Canadian G7 presidency and not the G7 as a whole.
Amidst all these significant advances, several shortcomings stood out. The third signature success that had been prepared — a strategy to prevent foreign interference in democratic elections — was absent from the highlights Trudeau noted in his concluding news conference that reported the summit results before the written communiqué appeared. Not all seven members signed on to the plastics charter, as absent were the United States with its long coastline and Japan, which is most geographically exposed to the Asian oceans from which most of the world's plastics flowed into the sea. There was little on climate change, even the six without the United States and no reiteration of the familiar commitment to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
On the summit process, Trump's surprising public proposal just before the summit started to have Russia come to a G7 meeting to negotiate face to face could have been prepared and communicated privately in advance, and then seriously discussed when the leaders met. And Trump could have flown in earlier to have a pre-summit bilateral with Trudeau, to pave the way for greater summit success in the same way that Trudeau had with Macron.
The greatest shortcoming came shortly after 7:00 PM, two hours after the summit communiqué had appeared. Trump from Air Force One flying to Singapore tweeted: "Based on Justin's false statements at his news conference and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers, and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the US Market!" A minute later he tweeted "PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that 'US Tariffs were kind of insulting' and he 'will not be pushed around.' Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!"
These tweets immediately aroused memories of the only failed G7 summit in its 44 years. That was at Versailles in 1982 when a newly presented concluding consensus communiqué was immediately repudiated by the leaders who had collectively just agreed to it in their individual news conferences at the summit site. The divisive issue then, at the height of the new Cold War, was the proposed Soviet gas pipeline to Europe, which U.S. president Ronald Reagan vigorously opposed. In Trump's case, his unilateral unendorsement of the communiqué came only after he left, with only his closest White House advisors available to talk to him. It remains to be seen if Trump will follow by actually imposing new sanctions of the sort that Reagan did on his European allies, using a national security rationale to impose tariffs on Canadian autos that Trump's tweets alluded too. If so, the Charlevoix Summit will likely have made matters worse, by escalating the trade skirmish into a trade battle over autos or even into a trade war over the North American Free Trade Agreement as a whole.
Yet a few weeks after the summit, Trump still had not repeated his tweet about the United States not endorsing the Charlevoix communiqué, or taken any known action to put this sentiment into effect. Moreover, among the many passages and agreements it contained, notably that on North Korea, Trump personally and immediately started to comply with several commitments. There was no apparent U.S. withdrawal from the preparations for the next G7 ministerial meetings, the usual foreign ministerial gathering at the opening of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in late September and the scheduled one on the environment oceans and energy on September 19-21.
Two hours after it ended, Trump's two short evening tweets made Charlevoix a public relations failure in its immediate post-summit presentation. Nonetheless it remained a summit of significant substantive success. Several days after the summit, it seemed that the substantive success would remain, while the public relations setback would be short-lived. Moreover, the latter would be largely experienced by Trump rather than the G7 as a whole or its Canadian host.
Financial Times (2018), "Merkel approaches a moment of reckoning," editorial,June 20, p. 8.
Hopkins, Andrea (2018), "Majority of Canadians say they will avoid U.S. goods, poll finds," Globe and Mail, June 16, p. A19.
Ibbitson, John (2018), "Tory victory in Quebec more than a local race," Globe and Mail, June 20, p. A6.
Kirton, John (2018). "Canadians' strong support for Canada's national interests and destructive national values," presentation to the Canadian International Council, Toronto, April 16.
|Year||Grade||Domestic political management||Deliberation||Direction setting||Decision making||Delivery||Development of global governance||Participation|
|# compliments||Spread||# days||# statements||# words||# references to core values||# commitments||Compliance (N)||# ministerials created||# official-level groups created||# members||# participating countries||# participating international organizations|
|Average All 2017||4.11||30%||2.7||5.44||10,207||28.86||121||0.59 (22.6)||0.44||2.41||8.7||3.59||1.8|
Notes: N/A=not available.
a. Grades up to and including 2005 are given by Nicholas Bayne; from 2006 on are given by John Kirton and the G7 Research Group and are generated according to a different framework and method.
b. Domestic Political Management: Number of compliments includes all explicit references by name to the full members of the summit that specifically express the gratitude of the institution to that member. Spread is the number of members complimented as a percentage of the total number of G7/8 members.
c. Direction setting: number of references in the communiqué to the G7's core values of democracy, individual liberty and social advance.
d. Delivery: Compliance scores from 1990 to 1995 measure compliance with commitments selected by Ella Kokotsis. Compliance scores from 1996 onward are produced by the G7 Research Group's selected annual priority commitments, special issue-specific studies, and later POL 456/2256 approved assessments. The number in parentheses indicates the number of commitments assessed for compliance; the average refers only to compliance assessments from 1996 to 2017.
e. Development of Global Governance: The number of new G7/8-countries institutions created at the ministerial and official level at or by the summit, or during the hosting year, at least in the form of having one meeting take place.
f. Participation: # members is the number of leaders of full members, including those representing the European Community from the start, and the number of invited participants of countries and/or of international organizations at the G7 leaders' session. Russia started as a participant in 1991 and became a full member in 1998. In 1975, the G4 met without Japan and Italy; later that year the G6 met. # participating and participating international organizations is the number of non-G7 countries and international organizations that participated.
|Date Reported||Liberals||Conservatives||NDP||Bloc Québécois||Greens|
Source: Nanos Ballot.
Notes: 180519 reported data is for the four week period ending June 15, six days after the Charlevoix Summit ended on June 9. G7 Taormina Summit was May 26–27, 2017.
|By document||# commitments||% commitments|
|Equality and Economic Growth||29||9%|
|Innovative Financing for Development||26||8%|
|Future of Artificial Intelligence||23||7%|
|Quality Education for Girls, Adolescent Girls and Women in Developing Countries||43||14%|
|End Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, Abuse and Harassment in Digital Contexts||18||6%|
|Defending Democracy from Foreign Threats||11||4%|
|Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Coastal Communities||42||13%|
|Ocean Plastics Charter||39||12%|
|Issue area||# commitments||% commitments|
|Information and communications technology||23||7%|
|Labour and employment||11||3%|
|Crime and corruption||5||2%|
|Migration and refugees||1||0.3%|
Notes: Compiled by Brittaney Warren, June 16, 2018. N=315
[a] Environment: Japan and U.S. excluded from the 39 environment commitments found in the Oceans Plastics Charter.
[b] Climate change: U.S. excluded from all climate change commitments.
[c] Energy: four of the five energy commitments are country-specific commitments — U.S. only.
|Issue area||Total commitments
|Development||669 (13%)||+0.45 (47)|
|Energy||433 (8.3%)||+0.64 (19)|
|Health||403 (7.8%||+0.54 (67)|
|Terrorism||372 (7.1)||+0.54 (31)|
|Trade||333 (6.4)||+0.27 (39)|
|Climate change||315 (6.1%)||+0.46 (82)|
|Crime and corruption||288||+0.46 (42)|
|Macroeconomic policy||259||+0.70 (15)|
|Food and agriculture||252||+0.54 (13)|
|Regional security||210||+0.62 (31)|
|Environment||187 (3.5%)||+0.57 (10)|
|Gender||132 (3%)||+0.20 (7)|
|Financial regulation||121||+0.55 (8)|
|Information and communication technology||88||+0.70 (15)|
|Labour and employment||75||+0.52 (3)|
|Human rights||65||+0.64 (7)|
|Nuclear safety||59||+0.50 (2)|
|Peace and security||53|
|East-West relations (Russia)||51||0 (2)|
|International cooperation||42||+1.00 (1)|
|Reform of UN/international financial institutions||37||+0.19 (4 UN)|
|Conflict prevention||26||+0.51 (8)|
|Social policy||20||+0.71 (5)|
|Migration and refugees||16||+0.75 (4)|
Notes: numbers in brackets = number of commitments assessed. Blank spaces = no commitments assessed in that issue area
|International cooperation||+1.00 (1)|
|Migration and refugees||+0.75 (4)|
|Social policy||+0.71 (5)|
|Macroeconomic policy||+0.70 (15)|
|Information and communication technology||+0.70 (15)|
|Human rights||+0.64 (7)|
|Regional security||+0.62 (31)|
|Financial regulation||+0.55 (8)|
|Food and agriculture||+0.54 (13)|
|Labour and employment||+0.52 (3)|
|Conflict prevention||+0.51 (8)|
|Nuclear safety||+0.50 (2)|
|Climate change||+0.46 (82)|
|Crime and corruption||+0.46 (42)|
|Reform of United Nations/international financial institutions||+0.19 (4)|
|East-West relations (Russia)||0 (2)|
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