Grand summits of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nations are often criticised for a lack of output beyond vaguely phrased promises for co-operation and symbolic photo opportunities. Yet, in a time of deep geopolitical rifts — with the world’s two largest economies butting heads and Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine — summits take on greater significance in helping to forestall disunity.
In this light, the G7 meeting in Japan over the weekend had some notable achievements. The three-day gathering culminated in a broad but more unified approach by member nations on the war in Ukraine and China’s growing assertiveness. The convergence should not be taken for granted. But ultimately, the success of the Hiroshima summit will be determined by its ability to turn communiqués into concrete global action — and by that measure, considerable work lies ahead.
The summit made a welcome effort at broadening international support for Ukraine. The G7 reaffirmed their commitment to countering Vladimir Putin’s aggression, and the invitation of the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was also significant. It gave Zelenskyy a global platform, allowing him to press his agenda for peace in Ukraine also to the invited leaders of emerging powers — which are much more sceptical. The US decision to back allies in supplying F-16 fighter jets and help train Ukrainian pilots, alongside a new $375mn military aid package from Washington, was a particular boost for Kyiv too.
On China, the group critiqued Beijing’s use of “economic coercion”, urged it to use its influence to push Russia to withdraw troops from Ukraine, and called for a “peaceful resolution” to tensions with Taiwan. Most significant was coalescence around “de-risking” economic relations with China, rather than “decoupling” — echoing the calls of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Given differing economic interests, the west has been conflicted on how best to approach China’s vast state-led dominance of critical global supply chains, while also de-escalating tensions with Beijing. The G7 agreement is a step forward in providing a co-ordinated framework.
Garnering support from the so-called “global south” will however continue to be a major challenge for the G7. Economic ties between these nations and Russia and China are a barrier. Indeed, India has been gorging on cheap Russian oil, and bilateral trade between Brazil and China has surged. With China also building ports and doling out billions in aid and investment across Latin America, Africa, and South East Asia, stronger dialogue will only go so far. Limited progress on climate commitments at the summit will also do little to convince poorer nations to boost their own efforts. The G7 will need to follow through on promises to support developing nations with investment and climate finance.
The success of the G7’s strategy to “de-risk” ties with China will also hinge on whether there is common understanding on what precisely it means. Outlining and agreeing on the specifics will be the next step. De-escalating tensions with China will also not be simple, particularly if ambiguities remain. Indeed, on Sunday, Beijing banned US chipmaker Micron Technology’s products from its infrastructure over potential security risks — a decision the US commerce department said has “no basis in fact”.
With the G20 summit set to take place in New Delhi later this year, the challenge now is to show the “global south” that it is not simply an afterthought. A unified approach on Russia and China among seven of the world’s major economic powers is a step in the right direction. But to make the strides ahead, and build a global compact, the G7 will need to accompany its words with money and greater detail.