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Mario Draghi's Debut at the G7

Chiara Oldani, professor of economics, University of Viterbo 'La Tuscia',
and director, G7 and G20 Research Groups Rome
June 14, 2021

The leaders of the G7's United States, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Italy have been guests of the United Kingdom the weekend of June 11-13 in the most anticipated annual meeting for months for multiple reasons: the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rebirth of the economies with the most debt in the world, the return of international cooperation and the consolidation of large global alliances, among them.

The sandy Atlantic coast of Cornwall in southern England, a tourist and seaside location that promotes post-Brexit Britain, has been a pleasant backdrop to the meeting, with the BBC proudly broadcasting UK prime minister Boris Johnson doing the honours with his new wife. In his opening remarks to the leaders' first session, he said the end of the pandemic must lead to not making the same mistakes of the past, and that the G7 needs to be more equal and inclusive.

In 2020, the rotating presidency of the G7 was held by the United States and President Donald Trump refused to organize the meeting, denying the role of political cooperation and global alliances. The global pandemic brought many American voters to their senses and President Trump's MAGA motto to "Make America Great Again" evaporated at the polls. His own personal blog was shut down recently due to lack of traffic.

Other countries were invited to the G7, in a strategic effort to consolidate global alliances: Korea, Australia and South Africa. The leaders of the countries who arrived in Carbis Bay were welcomed by Queen Elizabeth and the (almost) full royal family. With broad smiles and half hugs, great relief can be read in everyone's body language.

The final declaration of the G7 was very concise, yet almost vague. Leaders agreed on the need to fight the effects of the pandemic and climate change and to support economic recovery and prosperity. But there was nothing specific about how, when and where. The Carbis Bay Health Declaration, agreed on Saturday, is more substantial; the "100 Days Mission," proposed by Melinda French Gates and Sir Patrick Vallance, is a global agreement to establish an early warning and crisis management system to respond to future crises in just 100 days.

The Cornwall meeting has been a success for Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, who led the leaders' discussion on economic measures for recovery and resilience. His G7 colleagues had great appreciation for his skills as an economist, leader and former central banker who managed the 2008 global financial crisis brilliantly.

In addition to showcasing Cornwall's natural beauty, the British prime minister brought a hot topic of national politics to the G7 table: the borders of the United Kingdom. With the agreement to leave the EU, the island of Ireland finds itself in a complex condition. Between Ireland and Northern Ireland there is a physical barrier, as well as a political one, which is not welcome. Northern Ireland was the only divisive and difficult topic for Johnson during the meeting and during the 30-minute press conference on Sunday afternoon. He would like to review the terms of the Brexit agreement to allow substantial continuity between the Irish. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, maintained that Johnson signed the agreement and it cannot be modified. Johnson therefore argued that one must be pragmatic in politics, not tied to rigid norms. France's President Emmanuel Macron replied that, being pragmatic, Brexit is Brexit. Johnson wanted to return to London with a promise of softened Irish borders in his pocket, but instead came back with his hands in the bag.

China is the larger and heavier presence in the room. International cooperation is not, in fact, of high value to the People's Republic of China, so, when the leaders of the G20 members – including President Xi Jinping – gather in October in Rome, Mario Draghi will do the honours and will have to work hard to smooth the edges.

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