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Joe Biden's Quadrilateral Summit Backs Global Britain G7 Ones

John Kirton, Director, G7 Research Group
March 13, 2021

Is post-Brexit Britain still a principal power as it prepares to host the G7 summit in Cornwall on June 11–13 this year? It is a timely question to ask, just after the new US president Joe Biden hosted the first new plurilateral summit of 2021, with his Indo-Pacific Quadrilateral partners of Japan, India and Australia, without a self-proclaimed "global Britain" there.

Views about the United Kingdom's global relevance and rank have aroused a new debate, following its separation from the European Union as 2021 began. Some proudly proclaim the arrival of a global Britain, now free from the confining regional focus of the EU. Others see the United Kingdom as a "significant power with far-flung global interests and too few gunboats to enforce its will alone" retreating to the role of a "convenor of new international coalitions … by setting up a club of democracies and then, as host in Glasgow of this year's big climate change conference, broker of a deal to save the planet" (Stephens 2021). Still others see Biden backing British prime minister Boris Johnson, to make Johnson's fast-start G7 virtual summit on February 19 a success (Kirton 2021a, b, c, d, e, f).

But Biden promised to create his own summits, notably a "summit of democracies" this year and an "Earth Day" summit dedicated to climate change that he has scheduled for April 22. Biden also launched the Quad Summit. He held it without a genuinely geographically global Britain there, despite American armed forces sharing with their British counterparts a British military base on Britain's Diego Garcia, in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Moreover, it is middle powers that play the role of assembling coalitions, supporting multilateral rules and organizations led by the United Nations, and being a trusted honest broker (Dewitt and Kirton 1983; Kirton 2007). It is principal powers that have global relevance and reach, act on behalf of their global interests, unilaterally if necessary, and are part of the concerts that have guided global governance since 1818. As the G7 summit has long been the world's leading full-strength, democratically devoted global concert, much depends on the ability of Johnson and Biden to work together to make the intense, innovative sequence of plurilateral summits they host succeed in controlling the many challenges the world now confronts, starting with COVID-19, commerce, China and, above all, climate change.

The United Kingdom's Relative Capability

To these tasks, Britain brings a formidable array of top-tier assets. It founded the world's oldest plurilateral summit institution in 1917, modernized it in 1947, and had this global Commonwealth, with Queen Elizabeth at the head, force a racist South Africa to withdraw in 1961, but return when it became the multiracial democracy that Nelson Mandela, India, Canada and others long sought. India's Narendra Modi, invited to the Cornwall G7, will help connect it to Biden's Quad, where issues of human rights remain central to the work of both. Post-Brexit London remains among the most multi-racial capital cities in the world.

The United Kingdom also has many world-leading specialized capabilities, of a hard and soft power sort, directly relevant to the health, economic and ecological challenges of today. To lead the world in conquering COVID-19, the UK is a life sciences hegemon, having sequenced 50% of the genomes in the COVID-19 virus and thus discovering the B117 variant and tightening lockdowns to prevent its spread. It was the first western and major power to authorize the use of a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine, using the Pfizer-BioNtech one that its international openness allowed. Its homegrown, lagging AstraZenica-Oxford vaccine uses traditional technology. On climate change, it ranks first on offshore wind power generation and was the world's second major power, after Canada, to phase out thermal coal. On development, it has long been a leading contributor of official development assistance as a percentage of gross domestic product and in absolute terms. Johnson also used Britain's position as one of the Permanent Five members of the United Nations Security Council to host a recent meeting on the link between conflict and climate change.

The Quad Summit's Results

Would Britain's capabilities and convening power back Biden's Quad Summit commitments and vice versa, as their respective summits worked together to get the 2021 summits off to strong start? It seems they did.

The Quad Summit culminated in an announcement that the four participating countries would cooperate to provide one billion does of Johnson and Johnson's one-shot vaccine to Southeast Asian countries. Jake Sullivan, U.S. national security advisor, declared that "today is a big day for American diplomacy. This summit is a big deal for the president and for the country" (Sevastopulo, Kazmin and Smyth 29021). He could have added that it was a big deal for the world. For Britain's AztraZenica-Oxford University vaccine is already rolling out in large volume, while the recent U.S. invented Johnson and Johnson vaccine is just getting started, and none will leave the United States for several months.

Communiqué Conclusions

More broadly, the Quad Summit produced a communiqué of 706 words in six paragraphs. This short statement repeatedly affirmed the principles of democracy, freedom and human rights that has formed the distinctive foundational mission of the G7 since its start in 1975. In offering its own mission, the Quad Summit adopted virtually the same one: "We bring diverse perspectives and are united in a shared vision for the free and open Indo-Pacific. We strive for a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion" (Quadrilateral 2021).

Commitments

The communiqué contained 34 precise, future-oriented, politically binding commitments (see Appendix A). This is 26% more commitments than the G8 Virtual Summit's 27.

The Quad commitments covered nine subjects, covering the social, ecological and political security spheres. They were led by international cooperation with nine and regional security with eight, followed by digitization and health with four each, climate change and human rights with three each and proliferation, terrorism and infrastructure with one each.

Together the G7 and Quad summits made commitments on 15 different subjects (see Appendix B). On the four shared subjects of health, climate change, international cooperation and digitalization, the G7 made 14 (52%) of its 27 commitments and the Quad made 22 (65%) of its 34 commitments. As both had a majority of their commitments on shared subjects, they seemed to be working together on a common agenda, rather than dividing labour. The G7 made commitments on its traditional subjects of the economy, development, labour and employment, trade, taxation, and gender. The Quad, with a security focus, did so on regional security, human rights, nonproliferation, terrorism and infrastructure. It is noteworthy that the G7 made no commitments on human rights and neither did on democracy.

On their shared agenda, the G7 led in volume on health and climate change, and the Quad led on digitalization. The four subjects well reflect the priorities of both Joe Biden and Boris Johnson.

Compliance

The Quad members are likely to comply with their commitments to a high degree, if they work with the G7 in doing so and especially if they add the United Kingdom in the task. The Quad's creation of a meeting of its foreign ministers will likely increase compliance with the commitments on regional security, nonproliferation, terrorism and human rights, as such a meeting does in the G7 (Rapson 2020). On the subjects shared between the Quad and the G7, the G7 summit has historically achieved compliance of 76% on health, 73% on climate change and 72% on digitalization (Byrd 2020; Warren 2020). On the five subjects where only the Quad made commitments, G7 compliance has been higher: 82% on regional security, 78% on human rights, 82% on weapons proliferation and 78% on compliance. Quad compliance will probably be better if it is backed by the G7.

Here the UK could take the lead. On the three shared Quad-G7 subjects with compliance data, the UK's G7 compliance has averaged 89%, well ahead of the United States and Japan, each with 81%. Climate change is the subject where the United States at 70% and Japan at 74% most need to be backed by the United Kingdom at 83%. The UK's G7 compliance has also led the United States and Japan on regional security and terrorism, which only the Quad has committed to.

Development of Global Governance

The Quad's performance on the institutional development of global governance support the case for bringing Britain into the Quad in a bigger way. The Quad Summit references inside institutions (i.e., institutions it has created) five times and outside ones seven times (see Appendix C). The subject-specific institutions created by the Quad are on health and climate change — the central subjects of the G7 Cornwall Summit, where British G7 compliance leads the average of the United States and Japan combined. Of the seven references to international institutions outside the Quad, health led with three and was joined by climate change with one.

Conclusion

There is thus a strong case for having Britain back Joe Biden's Quad in a big way, and thereby help both spur to success the Cornwall Summit Boris Johnson will host and the Glasgow climate summit he will co-host in 2021. This process could start by the Quad inviting the Britain to participate in its new institutions on health, climate change and foreign policy, where Britain's formidable global capabilities stand out. It could extend to the Quad's culminating new institution, declared when its leaders said: "At the leader level, we will hold an in-person summit by the end of 2021." Johnson has already in invited all four Quad leaders to his in-person G7 Cornwall Summit in June. It is time for them to reciprocate, by inviting him to theirs.

References

Byrd, Meagan (2020). "G7 Performance on Health," in John Kirton and Madeline Koch, eds., G7 USA: The 2020 Virtual Year (London: GT Media), pp. 28-29. http://bit.ly/g7usa.

Dewitt, David and John Kirton (1983). Canada as a Principal Power (Toronto: Wiley).

Kirton, John (2007). Canadian Foreign Policy in a Changing World (Toronto: Thomson Nelson).

Kirton, John (2021a). "America's Free World Leadership through the Democratic G7," G7 Research Group, January 19. http://www.g7.utoronto.ca/evaluations/2021cornwall/kirton-US-leadership.html.

Kirton, John (2021b). "G7 Summitry Builds Back Better under Boris Johnson in 2021," G7 Research Group, February 14. http://www.g7.utoronto.ca/evaluations/2021cornwall/kirton-G7-builds-back-better.html.

Kirton, John (2021c). "Improving G7 Cornwall Implementation," G7 Research Group, March 4. http://www.g7.utoronto.ca/scholar/Kirton_Improving_G7_Cornwall_Implementation_210304.pdf.

Kirton, John (2021d). "Prospects for Action from the 2021 G7 Virtual Summit: Will Promises be Kept?," G7 Research Group, February 20. http://www.g7.utoronto.ca/evaluations/2021cornwall/kirton-prospects-action.html.

Kirton, John (2021e). "Substantial Success at the G7's 2021 February Virtual Summit," G7 Research Group, February 19. http://www.g7.utoronto.ca/evaluations/2021cornwall/kirton-february-summit.html.

Kirton, John, (2021f). "A Successful Start to G7 Summitry in 2021," G7 Research Group, February 25. http://www.g7.utoronto.ca/evaluations/2021cornwall/kirton-successful-start.html.

Quadrilateral (2021). "Quad Leaders' Joint Statement: "The Spirit of the Quad," March 12. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/12/quad-leaders-joint-statement-the-spirit-of-the-quad/.

Rapson, Jessica (2020). "Increasing the Impact of the G7," in John Kirton and Madeline Koch, eds., G7 USA: The 2020 Virtual Year (London: GT Media), pp. 128-29. http://bit.ly/g7usa.

Sevastopulo, Demetri, Amy Kazmin and Jamie Smyth (2021). "US and Asian Allies Take on China with Push to Deliver 1bn Covid Jabs," Financial Times, March 13-14, p. 1.

Stephens, Philip (2021), "Squandering Trust Is No Route to a "Global Britain," Financial Times March 11. https://www.ft.com/content/10ec8895-c84f-479e-9fc7-9dde0706dca3.

Warren, Brittaney (2019). "G7 Performance on Climate Change," in John Kirton and Madeline Koch, eds., G7 France: The 2019 Biarritz Summit (London: GT Media), pp. 48-49. http://bit.ly/G7France.

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Appendix A: Commitments in the Quad Leaders' Joint Statement

Subject Number of commitments Percent of commitments
International cooperation 9 26%
Regional security 8 24%
Health 4 12%
Digitalization 4 12%
Climate change 3 9%
Human rights 3 9%
Nonproliferation 1 3%
Terrorism 1 3%
Infrastructure 1 3%
Total 34 100%

Identified and coded by Brittaney Warren and John Kirton

Commitments

2021-1: We have convened to reaffirm our commitment to quadrilateral cooperation between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. (international cooperation)

2021-2: We strive for a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion. (regional security)

2021-3: [Today the global devastation wrought by COVID-19, the threat of climate change, and security challenges facing the region summon us with renewed purpose.] On this historic occasion of March 12, 2021, the first ever leader-level summit of the Quad, we pledge to strengthen our cooperation on the defining challenges of our time." (international cooperation).

2021-4: Together, we commit to promoting a free, open rules-based order, rooted in international law to advance security and prosperity and counter threats to both in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. (regional security)

2021-5: We support the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic values, and territorial integrity. (regional security)

2021-6: We commit to work together and with a range of partners. (international cooperation)

2021-7: We reaffirm our strong support for ASEAN's unity and centrality as well as the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. (regional security)

2021-8: Full of potential, the Quad looks forward to the future; it seeks to uphold peace and prosperity and strengthen democratic resilience, based on universal values. (international cooperation)

2021-9: Today, we pledge to respond to the economic and health impacts of COVID-19 (health)

2021-10: [Today, we pledge to] … combat climate change (climate change)

2021-11: [Today, we pledge to] … address shared challenges, including in cyber space (digitization)

2021-12: [Today, we pledge to … address shared challenges, including in] … critical technologies (digitization)

2021-13: [Today, we pledge to … address shared challenges, including in] … counterterrorism (terrorism)

2021-14: [Today, we pledge to … address shared challenges, including in] … quality infrastructure investment (infrastructure)

2021-15: [Today, we pledge to … address shared challenges, including in] … humanitarian-assistance (human rights)

2021-16: [Today, we pledge to … address shared challenges, including in] … disaster-relief (human rights)

2021-17: [Today, we pledge to … address shared challenges, including in] … maritime domains. (regional security)

2021-18: Building on the progress our countries have achieved on health security, we will join forces to expand safe, affordable, and effective vaccine production and equitable access, to speed economic recovery and benefit global health. (health)

2021-19: We will, therefore, collaborate to strengthen equitable vaccine access for the Indo-Pacific, with close coordination with multilateral organizations including the World Health Organization and COVAX. (health)

2021-20: We are united in recognizing that climate change is a global priority and will work to strengthen the climate actions of all nations, including to keep a Paris-aligned temperature limit within reach. (climate change)

2021-21: We will begin cooperation on the critical technologies of the future to ensure that innovation is consistent with a free, open, inclusive, and resilient Indo-Pacific. (digitization)

2021-22: We will continue to prioritize the role of international law in the maritime domain, particularly as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (regional security)

2021-23: [We will continue to] … facilitate collaboration, including in maritime security, to meet challenges to the rules-based maritime order in the East and South China Seas. (regional security)

2021-24: We reaffirm our commitment to the complete denuclearization of North Korea in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions (non-proliferation)

2021-25: [We] confirm the necessity of immediate resolution of the issue of Japanese abductees. (human rights)

2021-26: As long-standing supporters of Myanmar and its people, we emphasize the urgent need to restore democracy and the priority of strengthening democratic resilience. (regional security)

2021-27: To advance these goals and others, we will redouble our commitment to Quad engagement. (international cooperation)

2021-28: We will combine our nations' medical, scientific, financing, manufacturing and delivery, and development capabilities and establish a vaccine expert working group to implement our path-breaking commitment to safe and effective vaccine distribution; (health)

2021-29: we will launch a critical- and emerging-technology working group to facilitate cooperation on international standards and innovative technologies of the future; (digitization)

2021-30: we will establish a climate working group to strengthen climate actions globally on mitigation, adaptation, resilience, technology, capacity-building, and climate finance. (climate change)

2021-31: Our experts and senior officials will continue to meet regularly (international cooperation)

2021-32: our Foreign Ministers will converse often and meet at least once a year. (international cooperation)

2021-33: At the leader level, we will hold an in-person summit by the end of 2021. (international cooperation)

2021-34: we are committed to leveraging our partnership to help the world's most dynamic region respond to historic crisis, so that it may be the free, open, accessible, diverse, and thriving Indo-Pacific we all seek. (international cooperation)

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Appendix B: G7 and Quad Summit Commitments and Compliance

  G7 Virtual Summit Quad Summit G7-Quad Compliance
Subject Commitments Portion Commitments Portion Portion difference G7 United States Japan United Kingdom
Health 8 30% 4 12% 18% 76% 86% 72% 85%
Economy 5 19% 0 0% 19% 86% 86% 83% 86%
Development 4 15% 0 0% 15% 75% 79% 72% 87%
Climate 3 11% 3 9% 02% 73% 70% 74% 83%
International cooperation 2 7% 9 26% −19% - - - -
Labour and employment 1 4% 0 0% 04% 82% 100% 65% 100%
Digitalization 1 4% 4 12% -08% 72% 88% 96% 100%
Trade 1 4% 0 0% 04% 65% 60% 72% 74%
Taxation 1 4% 0 0% 04% - - - -
Gender 1 4% 0 0% 04% 69% 65% 71% 77%
Regional security 0 0% 8 24% −24% 82% 92% 86% 83%
Human rights 0 0% 3 9% −09% 78% 100% 50% 90%
Nonproliferation 0 0% 1 3% −03% 82% 77% 83% 88%
Terrorism 0 0% 1 3% −03% 78% 88% 52% 79%
Infrastructure 0 0% 1 3% −03% - - - -
Total 27 100% 34 100% - 77% 83% 73% 86%

Complied by John Kirton, March 12, 2021
G7 compliance average and compliance by country are equally weighted by subject, not by commitment

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Appendix C: Development of Global Governance in the Quadrilateral Leaders' Statement

Outside institution Number of references Inside institutions Number of references
World Health Organization 2 Vaccine expert working group 1
Association of Southeast Asian Nations 1 Climate working group 1
COVAX 1 Emerging technology working group 1
26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 1 Experts and senior officials 1
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1 Foreign ministers 1
United Nations Security Council 1    
Total 7   5

Compiled by Brittaney Warren

Development of Global Governance Statements

We reaffirm our strong support for ASEAN's unity and centrality as well as the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

We will, therefore, collaborate to strengthen equitable vaccine access for the Indo-Pacific, with close coordination with multilateral organizations including the World Health Organization and COVAX.

We call for transparent and results-oriented reform at the World Health Organization.

We look forward to a successful COP 26 in Glasgow.

We will continue to prioritize the role of international law in the maritime domain, particularly as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and facilitate collaboration, including in maritime security, to meet challenges to the rules-based maritime order in the East and South China Seas.

We reaffirm our commitment to the complete denuclearization of North Korea in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions, and also confirm the necessity of immediate resolution of the issue of Japanese abductees.

We will combine our nations' medical, scientific, financing, manufacturing and delivery, and development capabilities and establish a vaccine expert working group to implement our path-breaking commitment to safe and effective vaccine distribution; we will launch a critical- and emerging-technology working group to facilitate cooperation on international standards and innovative technologies of the future; and we will establish a climate working group to strengthen climate actions globally on mitigation, adaptation, resilience, technology, capacity-building, and climate finance.

Our experts and senior officials will continue to meet regularly; our Foreign Ministers will converse often and meet at least once a year.

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