On the 17th of January, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to hold the 2021 G7 summit in Cornwall in June later this year. This conference is the first time G7 members will have met since 2019, as the 2020 conference was cancelled due to the coronavirus. It will be the first multilateral summit attended by the newly elected President of the United States. Additionally, Australia, India, and South Korea were also invited to attend the summit at the end of 2020. The agenda will be dominated by the monumental task of economic restoration in the wake of the coronavirus and signals an opportunity for the rehabilitation of Western designs of international governance.
The G7 is an informal intergovernmental organisation that is comprised of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S. These countries first came together in 1975 as the group of seven countries that represented nearly 75 per cent of global GDP, however, this has shrunk to under 50 per cent in the intervening years. Traditionally, the G7 has met to discuss issues of global economic governance and international security. Regarding these resolutions, the G7 is often met with criticism concerning its lack of follow-through on initiatives discussed, the like-mindedness of the group producing predictable outcomes, and the exclusion of emerging economic powers like China, Brazil, South Africa, and Mexico. In recent years, the disparaging remarks from the Trump White House regarding the G7 became a new barrier to the coordination of the grouping. It is telling that G7 coordination regarding the coronavirus was delayed during 2020, the year the U.S. held the presidency over the group.
The 2021 summit is anticipated to be a signal that indicates the return of international liberal democratic governance. The sudden onset of the global pandemic has brought international life and cooperation to a halt. In conjunction with Brexit, multiple European migration crises, and the withdrawal of the U.S. from the international stage, there has been significant dysfunction on the world stage amongst countries who claim to be allies.
In a sense, the global health crisis has become a rallying point for greater cooperation and reflection. The invitation of aligned countries from the Indo-Pacific, Australia, India, and South Korea, is significant as is a very real enlargement of the scope of these talks and represents an opportunity to incorporate more of the world’s resources into dealing with this borderless problem. In making the announcement of the venue for the summit Prime Minister Johnson emphasized this notion saying, “It is only right that we approach the challenge of building back better by uniting with a spirit of openness to create a better future.”
Naturally, the G7 2021 meeting will be important to the event in the international response to the coronavirus as aligned countries design an economic recovery plan. Furthermore, this could be an opportunity for these countries to start the process of reform in the international system to prioritise cooperation rather than mistrust. Despite the potential importance of the event, the G7 represents only one segment of the global population with a particular set of views, and any resolutions designed at the summit may not have actionable policy outcomes in the aftermath of the conference.