By: Hitti Chopra, Research Analyst, GSDN
G7 is the group of seven countries that is an informal organization of the world’s advanced economies which dominate the international financial system and global trade. They are France, Germany, Italy, Canada, the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom. Russia belonged to the group from 1998 till 2014 when the block was known as G8 (Group of 8) but it was suspended following its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
The world in 1975 was experiencing high inflation followed by sparks of recession by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil embargo leading to grouping of 6 countries – The United States, the UK, Japan, France, Italy and West Germany to counter the economic and political challenges at that time. Canada joined the grouping in 1976. G7 is not a formal institution with a secretariat and a charter. The Presidency rotates on an annual basis which is responsible for setting up of the agenda. Sherpas, ministers and envoys hammer out policy initiatives before the summit. All the G7 countries are a part of G20.
G7 and Russia
Russia formally joined the inter-governmental political forum in 1998, making it G8. The membership of Russia was indefinitely suspended due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The restoration of Russia membership was suggested by various countries. The German foreign minister in 2016 stated that “none of the major international conflicts can be solved without Russia”, and the G7 countries will consider Russia’s return to the group in 2017. But in 2017, Russia formally announced that it would permanently leave the G8 grouping.
G7 was considered a grouping that could serve ‘collective-action’ and have like minded nations but it was challenged during President Donald Trump’s tenure. He wanted readmission of Russia in the bloc and believed it was “common sense” to include Russia in the “outdated” group.
The “collective action” bloc and multilateralism
Multilateralism has always been the leading edge in the global geopolitics since the second world war. The emergence of United Nations, creation of forums like G7 and G20, the world has witnessed a transition from unipolar order towards multipolarity. It has given a rise to solving common global threats together but at the same time new uncertainties have intensified the relations between nations like US and China. The countries might resort to protectionist policy due to transnational issues however it is integral for nations to align regional, national, global strategies to maintain the global order. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in G20 summit has mentioned that “Today, we do not need to fight for our survival-our era need not be one of war. Indeed, it must not be one.”
G7 is an exclusive group of industrialised nations and was created with the aim to maintain the economic stability of these seven nations. G20 is a group of both developing and developed countries and is focused on international cooperation and decision making. It covers around 85 percent of world GDP and two thirds of world population. Emerging powers including India, Brazil, Mexico, China, and South Africa, whose absence from the G7 is often mentioned, all belong to the G20. The overlapping of G7 and G20 mandates can be synergized ensuring a balance between the developing and developed worlds. Multilateralism is necessary in the multipolar world especially after COVID 19 pandemic. The G7 and G20 can work together in the support of multilateralism and can play an important role in global cooperation and coordination. The issue of food security, climate change, cyber warfare, technological disruptions, the common global threats which both institutions face can be addressed together and both the institutions can work together to build consensus among member states.
Challenges the group face
The G7’s future has been challenged by continued tensions with Russia and China. The bloc has imposed coordinated sanctions on Russia in response to the Ukraine war. The current G7 Presidency is under Japan and the latter has raised concern over the possibility of conflict in the Taiwan Strait.
The rise of Belt and Road Initiative of China is also a major concern for the grouping and recently in the springs G7 summit in Hiroshima, the bloc vowed to deliver the goal of up to $600 billion in financing for quality infrastructure through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure Investment, which is a rival to China’s Belt and Road initiative. During a trip to China prior to the G7 summit in 2023 as mentioned by the Council on Foreign Relations, French President Emmanuel Macron said the EU should avoid becoming pulled into a conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan, drawing some backlash from U.S. lawmakers.
Beijing has also often faced backlash for its human rights policy against its citizens from G7. The bloc leaders said in their statement “We call on China not to conduct interference activities aimed at undermining the security and safety of our communities, the integrity of our democratic institutions and our economic prosperity”, citing the Vienna Convention which regulates diplomatic affairs.
The industrialised G7 countries accounting for 20 percent of global emissions have been lukewarm with their commitments and majority of the pledges have been diluted further. The bloc has been under constant scanner for their ongoing dependence on fossil fuels especially coal. The G7 countries have to redirect and mobilize their financial support to renewable energy and aim to remove market distortions.
The current spring G7 summit conducted in Hiroshima Japan has showcased how the leaders of G7 came together on unified positions regarding Russia and China. The grouping can be of global good if it aligns its mandate vis a vis other multilateral forum across world like G20 and Quad which can result in fostering regional and global development, enhance cultural interchange and strengthen global governance.