Manoir Richelieu, La Malbaie, Canada. (Credit: Werner Bayer, 'Manoir Richelieu'/Flickr licensed under CC0 1.0) (via: bit.ly)

On 8-9 June 2018, the leaders of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, France, and Italy gathered at a La Malbec resort in the Canadian province of Quebec for the 44th G7 summit. This is the fifth meeting without Russian participation, which was suspended from the club in 2014 because of the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Donbass. It also became a tradition to invite representatives of different developing countries in addition to the main participants of the meeting. This year Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau invited 12 leaders of the following states: Argentina, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Haiti, Kenya, Marshall Islands, Norway, Rwanda, Senegal, the Republic of Seychelles, South Africa, and Jamaica. The heads of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the World Bank were also on the guest list.

Earlier, Trudeau announced that “Canada is proud to put forward a progressive agenda”, but the official program of the summit, which was supposed to address such topics as gender inequality, women’s empowerment, future vacancies, clean energy, economic growth, and climate change, was overshadowed by a row of recent world events that provoked a lot of disagreement within the group.

It was expected, that the main discussions would focus on the financial discrimination of the G7 countries in connection with the US introduction of duties on steel and aluminum; on the forthcoming summit of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un on June 12 and efforts to denuclearise the Korean peninsula; on the Iranian nuclear program; on the Syrian crisis, and on the proposal to resume the G8 format, which included Russia.

But it was all about Trump this time. Even before the summit began, the US president became the king of the ball surrounded by endless rumours: whether the president would come to the summit or not, when he would leave, with whom he would meet, what statements he would make, whether he would sign the final document or not. As we see now Trump demonstrated that he is not ready for any kind of dialogue and prefers to take an offensive and attacking position.

In general, the whole atmosphere of the summit could hardly lead to cooperation. On the very  first day upon leaving the White House for the summit President Trump unexpectedly told te reporters that “Russia should be in this meeting, they should let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”  The statement caused a negative reaction amongst the other G7 countries, who reconfirmed the need to maintain sanctions against Russia. Was it Trump’s attempt to find a friend in Russia? Was it an attempt to annoy others or was it a manipulative move meant to provoke Europe into criticising Russia again? To some extent, Trump is right, Russia is still a major player in the world arena and it would be wrong to make crucial decisions on the future world order without it. But in this case shouldn’t China also be included in these kind of talks? Nonetheless Russia met Trump’s statement very coolly, saying that at the moment the country’s priority is focusing on other formats.

But the drama did not end there. First, Trump was late for the working breakfast, then in quite a defiant manner refused to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May due to hostile personal relations. A bilateral meeting with the host of the summit, Justin Trudeau, did not bring any concrete results, other than a joke from the US president on the difficult financial situation that lead to the trade war between the countries.

Moreover, Trump left the summit earlier than scheduled and without taking part in the ecological session. This could be regarded as an unwillingness to review the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.

What goes around comes around. The end of the G7 summit was quite similar to how it began. At first it even seemed that, despite serious disagreements, the G7 leaders managed to somehow come to a common denominator and agree on the final communique. However, this turned out to only be a short-lived illusion. Trump lived up to expectations and ended his personal G7 summit show with a scandal (while already on board his aircraft), by turning to his beloved Twitter to announce that he is withdrawing from the final communique of the summit and accused Trudeau of lying and being weak. Curtains down.

The success of the event was initially questionable, making it high time to pose another question:  one about the effectiveness and necessity of such a G7 format in the future. From what we see now is that the G7 countries are far from being united: it looked more like G6 vs G1 this year. Representatives of the West gathered in a beautiful place to supposedly solve geopolitical problems, but as a result everyone stood firm in their own positions and then drowned in scandal. The dialogue never took place.

Will Canada become the last country to host the G7 summit or we will see the 45th round next year?

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Elena Sulimova

Research Associate, DOC Research Institute, RU

Elena Sulimova graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, specialising in European Regional Studies. After several years of work with the World Public Forum 'Dialogue of Civilizations' Elena is currently interested in European integration, sustainable development, and the digitalisation of modern society.