Tuesday, 19 September, 2017

Why G7 summit ends with little agreement on climate, trade, migration

28 May 2017, 01:56 ( 3 Months ago)

By Eric J. Lyman, Xinhua
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) shakes hands with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni at the ancient Greek theatre of Taormina before the opening ceremony of a G7 Summit, Italy, on May 26, 2017. Photo Xinhua.

The Group of Seven (G7) summit in Sicilian town of Taormina ended up with an unusual note of discord, as the leaders of the world's biggest industrialized countries failed to come to terms on a common stance on climate change or trade.

The lack of agreement on key issues is unusual for the G7 context, where the final communique is written to reflect only areas where leaders had a shared consensus.

In part the talks were shorter than usual (two days instead of three) and in part because of the long efforts to find common ground on contentious areas, the communique was much less ambitious than in past years, totalling just six pages, compared with 36 for the communique from last year's summit in Japan.

U.S. President Donald Trump was reportedly the main factor behind the disagreements. In response to the antagonistic role Trump played in Taormina, the Italian media coined the phrase "G6 plus 1," in lieu of "G7."

On climate, Trump refused to give his OK to language supporting the Paris Agreement on climate change. As a result, the final agreement read that the U.S. was "in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change and on the Paris Agreement," while Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Britain -- the other six countries at the summit -- affirmed a "strong commitment" to the Paris deal.

On trade, Trump claimed other countries were engaged in unfair trade practices that put the U.S. at a disadvantage. Without reaching an agreement, much of the language on trade was left out.

"This was the most challenging G7 summit in years," European Council President Donald Tusk said when the meetings concluded.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the talks as "very unsatisfactory."

"We had a situation of six members, or seven if you want to add in the European Union, standing against one," Merkel said. The European Union (EU) has a permanent observer status in the G7.

Trump was the only G7 leader who did not address the media in Taormina, choosing instead to visit with U.S. military personnel at the U.S. naval Air Station at Sigonella, around 65 km south of Taormina. The president's flight to Washington departed from the airbase instead of from the nearby airport at Catania, as with the other leaders.

There was agreement in some areas, most notably the efforts to confront terrorism, where leaders were galvanized by the deadly attacks in Manchester, Britain just before the start of the G7 talks. In his remarks from Sigonella, Trump said terrorism was a "bad threat to all humanity."

Leaders also agreed on the need to help find a resolution to the problems in war-torn Syria, to confront the rising threat from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), and to provide aid to countries in need.

Host Italy pushed for a strong common stance on the issue of migration, an area where Italy suffers more than the other G7 nations because of the tide of migrants landing on the country's shores from conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. But again, the leaders failed to agree on what to say.

In response to a lack of action on migration, Oxfam International, an umbrella organization linking non-governmental groups, issued a statement reading, "Consensus crumbles at the expense of the world's poorest people."

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