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A Summit of Significant Success at G7 Charlevoix 2018

John Kirton, G7 Research Group
June 9, 2018, 20h55

The G7's Charlevoix Summit has been 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, a pair of tweets from a now absent U.S. president Donald Trump threatened to turn it into a public relations failure, at least for a short time, in some places of the world.

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 the summit mobilized $3.8 billion new money to educate poor girls in conflict zones and thus rebuild their communities as well. This was almost three time the amount that the leading Canadian non-governmental organizations had asked for this purpose from the start. It also produced an additional $3 billion package from all G7 members' development finance institutions and their private sector partners for women's economic empowerment over the next two years. 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 the priority of oceans, five of the G7 members signed on to a G7 pledge to prevent plastics pollution in the oceans. 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 here. This provided a powerful platform on which to build when Canada hosted the meeting of G7 ministers of the environment and climate change, oceans and energy in the fall. 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 an eight-page, single-spaced, 28-paragraph consensus communiqué to which all members had agreed was resolved at the very end when such a communiqué was triumphantly produced. It conveyed the leaders' authority on an additional seven "commitments" to be 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 came to the summit, arrived at the start, and attended, engaged seriously and with collegiality in all the sessions while there. This included the innovative breakfast meeting 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 prepare for 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.


Amidst all these significant advances there were indeed several shortcomings. The third sign ature 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 communique appeared. It was also disappointing that all seven members did not signed on to the zero plastics charter, especially a Japan that was most geographically exposed to the Asian oceans from which most of the world's plastics flowed into the sea. Trump's surprising public proposal on the morning the summit started to have Russia come to a G7 meeting to negotiate with it 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 to 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. Then Trump 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. Out 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, when a consensus concluding communiqué was immediately repudiated by the leaders who had agreed to it in their news conferences that immediately followed at the summit site. The divisive issue then was the proposed Soviet gas pipeline at the height of the new Cold War, which U.S. president Ronald Reagan vigorously opposed. In Trump's case his unilateral repudiation of the communiqué came only after he left to go home alone, with only his closest White House advisors available to talk him. It remains to be seen if Trump will follow by actually imposing the sanctions Reagan did on his European allies, with tariffs on the Canadian autos that Trump's tweets alluded too. If so the Charlevoix Summit will likely have made matters worse, by escalating the trade battle into a trade war.

At the moment, Trump's tweets have made Charlevoix a public relations failure in its immediate post-summit presentation, while it remains a summit of significant substantive success. But this could change on both dimensions, and in both directions, in the days and weeks to come.

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