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Strive to maintain G7’s significance, framework for global cooperation

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe task is for the leaders of advanced nations, all of which share such values as freedom and democracy, to gather and set a course of action to be pursued in dealing with the global economy and the international situation. Whether this function can be maintained is being questioned.

The Group of Seven summit meeting of major countries has ended. The declaration issued by their leaders was as simple as a total of five items. It was an unusual style for a document on the outcome of a G7 summit.

With regard to trade, the declaration only affirmed such principles as “open and fair world trade.” The latest document signified a major retreat from last year’s declaration, which emphasized “fighting protectionism” and a “rules-based international trading system.”

A great gap exists between European leaders and U.S. President Donald Trump. The former places importance on the issues of free trade and climate change, while the latter has touted the “America First” policy and has also made little of international cooperation. The decision by France, the chair of the meeting, to give up the idea of preparing a comprehensive declaration seems to have resulted from its wish to place priority on preventing this schism from being laid bare.

Bureaucrats from each G7 nation take time to adjust the wording of a declaration in advance, with a view to exploring common ground. If the process peculiar to G7 summits is omitted and discussions allowed to close in a manner that just suits the occasion, the group’s raison d’etre could be shaken.

During the latest meeting, one G7 leader after another expressed concerns about a slowdown in the world economy due to the intensifying trade friction between the United States and China. However, no specific message was issued by the G7 group. It was clear that the G7 nations do not want to offend Trump, as they have trade issues with the United States.

G7 must unite on China

Among the frameworks for discussions about the global economy, the Group of 20 major economies, including China and Russia, is making its presence felt even more strongly. However, the G7’s role in this respect is not small. The group must cooperate to cope with any financial and monetary crises, thereby maintaining its framework for trying to stabilize the world economy.

The latest declaration incorporated the need of overhauling the World Trade Organization, as well as “calls for violence to be avoided” over the situation in Hong Kong. It is an important duty for the G7 nations to unite their efforts to restrain China’s self-righteous conduct.

French President Emmanuel Macron revealed that progress was being made in coordinating for top-level talks between the United States and Iran over the Iranian situation. Although the situation cannot be viewed optimistically, his diplomatic efforts to find a clue to easing tensions between the two countries can be welcomed.

Next year’s summit meeting will be held in the United States. Trump has indicated his intention to bring Russia back to the group, ending the exclusion of that country from the talks in response to its annexation of Crimea in 2014. If Russia returns while the situation remains unchanged, it may mean the G7 nations have accepted Russia’s action of changing the status quo by force.

It is essential to bind Trump to a framework of international cooperation while also preventing a change in the nature of the G7 countries. Noting his relationship of trust built with the U.S. and European leaders, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should grapple with this difficult task.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2019)Speech



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