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Japan in G7 Meeting 2019

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Japan Watch Project Analyst By Reni Juwitasari

The G7 group of nations with partners at the Hotel du Palais Biarritz, the location of the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France. | White House/Andrea Hanks  

Last August, the world leaders from the G7 (Group of Seven) gathered to attend the 45 Annual Summit in Biarritz, hosted by President Emmanuel Macron of France. The three-day summit was attended by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the U.S. President Donald Trump, as well as the European Council President Donald Tusk. The meeting highlighted the issues of “Combating Inequality” with five priorities, as follows: 1) fighting inequality of opportunity, in particular, gender equality, 2) reducing inequality related to environmental degradation, 3) strengthening of social dimension of globalization, 4) taking action for peace, and 5) tapping into the opportunities by creating digital technology and artificial intelligence. The issue of inequality became important due to a serious threat to social cohesion and economic development. Therefore, this summit was expected to lift people out of extreme poverty which was stated in the G7 Leader’s Declaration, focusing on fair and transparent world trade in order to stabilize the global economy. The declaration has also mentioned the support to the issues of Iran, Ukraine, Libya and Hong Kong. Under the French Presidency of G7, France invited non-member countries, with a particular on African nations and Iran.

The first agenda on gender equality resulted in an advocacy commitment for affected women by discriminatory laws and the lack of protection through monitoring laws from G7 Accountability Working Group. Moreover, their support would also intend to getting access to inclusive and quality education for women in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). In term of sexual violence, G7 leaders would take action with meaningful women’s participation in conflict prevention, peace processes, relief and resilience. The second agenda of environmental inequality discovered the significant impact of climate change. It was actually an effort of G7 leaders to convince the U.S. leader embarrassing the Paris Agreement by its withdrawal in the previous G7 and G20 summit conducted tension between the U.S. itself and other country members. The third agenda of the social dimension of globalization was absorbed on fair and equitable trade, tax and development policies. The agenda was vital to be concerned due to the appearance of trade disputes among G7 country members, for instance, the dispute between the U.S. and France on imposing a tariff of the U.S techs companies, such as Google and Amazon and threatened tax to French wine. 

Furthermore, the fourth agenda on taking action for peace was focused on global political issues, such as Iran’s nuclear weapon, Libya’s political situation and governance and Hong Kong’s conflict of the 1948 Sino-British Joint Declaration. The last agenda on digital technology and artificial intelligence became a platform to bolster the capacities to address hybrid threats, including the areas of cybersecurity, strategic communication and counterintelligence. Besides, it was stressed that artificial intelligence would be an important tool to achieve SGDs by advantages of society transformation in the global economy and future work. 

As Japan got benefit from hosting the previous G20 Osaka summit two months ago, the presence of Japan influenced the discussion process on the 45 annual summits of G7 by adding the follow-up agenda from the G20 summit, in particular, climate change. With the support of France, Japan got strong G7 language on climate change in advance for that it was one of the agendas for the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York later. Japan as one of the supporters of Paris Agreement, therefore, was confident in tackling climate change issue at the G7 than it did at the G20. Furthermore, Japan and other G7 leaders, finally, offered financial aid for as many as 20 million US dollars.

Japan also enlightened the stability of economic growth on its agenda of the G7 summit, mainly the U.S. and China trade war. For Japan, the issue had actually impacted not only to their own economies but also to the global economy, especially trade war among G7 countries. The similar effort of Japan trying to convince the U.S. to negotiate the deal with China was re-happened. As a result, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, altered his tone on President Xi Jinping from an ‘enemy’ to a ‘great leader’. Even though it was unclear if the president’s change in approach would prove durable, it seemed that the President needed to hear the earful discussion of avoiding a trade-driven calamity with China.

In the sideline of talks, the G7 summit was surprised by the invitation of Iranian Foreign
Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif to the meeting which was raising a tension to the U.S. Both the host, France and Japan attempted to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the U.S. This matter was seen as a continuous effort since Japan offered to be a mediator for the U.S. and Iran in June 2019 even though the issue of Iran was not discussed in G20 Osaka summit. Moreover, the G7 summit was a platform for the U.S. and Japan to hold a talk about North Korea on the summit sideline. In the meeting with the U.S. President, Japan uttered the readiness to further strengthen its alliance against North Korea. Following up this meeting, Tokyo planned to ask Washington to hold a meeting with Pyongyang to resolve the problem of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese citizens.

Historically, Japan has been one of the Group of Seven members since it was established
officially in 1975. It was started in 1971 when the Bretton Woods System of fixed international
exchange rates tied and collapsed to the price of gold and affected the oil crisis in 1973. Finance ministers from key countries, such as Britain, France, Germany and the United States led the meeting on 25 March 1973. Later in September, the Japanese finance minister joined the group and subsequently known as the Group of Five. Following the meeting of finance ministers, in 1975 French President invited the heads of governments from the United States, Britain, West Germany, Japan and Italy to attend the first summit at Rambouillet, France. In 1976, Canada joined the group, and as Russia joined in 1997, the group became the Group of Eight. However, since 2014, Russia was not included in the group, and the group turned to have only 7 members until now.

The presence of Japan as one of the G7 member has contributed much to the world. In 1979
Japan hosted its first summit of G7 in Tokyo. In the summit, Japan invented global governance in climate change. The second host of G7 summit in 1986, Japan brought the issue of inclusiveness with launching multilateral trade negotiations. Continuously, Japan was trusted for being the host of the third time in 1993. The fourth host was in 2000 with raising the issue of global health, AIDS in particular. As the fifth host of G7 summit in 2008, Japan elaborated the bottom-up approach to control climate change. In the latest G7 summit in 2016, as the host, Japan raised the importance of SGDs implementation by establishing the SDGs Promotion Headquarters and compiling Japan’s SDGs Implementation Guiding Principles for the meeting.

This time, Japan’s presence in the Group of Seven had a firm standpoint on climate change and inclusiveness. Behind the negative perception of protectionism, Japan contributed its effort to be a change agent, especially influencing other countries to implement SDGs point continuously. The current Japanese government proved its commitment to keep maintaining peace and security, especially in Iran, which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first sitting Japanese leader to avert Iran’s conflict with the U.S after 1978. Regardless, this year summit was disappointing, mainly for Japan due to unproduced communique for the first time since 1975 and unsuccessful convincing the U.S. to recommit in 2015 Paris Agreement.

References:
Online Newspapers:

For Japan, a G7 to Remember. (2016, May 20). Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved from:
https://www.cfr.org/expert-brief/japan-g7-remember.
G7 Ends with Whispers of a U.S. – Iran Meeting. (2019, August 23). Time. Retrieved from:
https://time.com/5658798/g7-summit-2019/.
G7 Summit 2019: Which world leaders will be gathering in Biarritz? What’s on the agenda?.
(2019, August 23). Evening Standard. Retrieved from:
https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/g7-summit-2019-biarritz-world-leaders-agenda-
a4220106.html

G7 summit in Biarritz winds down after three days of talks. (2019, August 28). DW. Retrieved
from: https://www.dw.com/en/g7-summit-in-biarritz-winds-down-after-three-days-of-talks/a-
50172646.

G7 summit likely to skip communique, reflecting gulf between U.S. and Europe, Japan source says. (2019, August 20). The Japan Times. Retrieved from: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/08/20/national/g7-summit-biarritz-to-skip-communique/#.XY9w5kYzazK.
Highlights: Leaders’ closing remarks at Biarritz G7 Summit. (2019, August 26). Reuters. Retrieved from: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-g7-summit-highlights/highlights-leaders-closing-remarks-at-biarritz-g7-summit-idUSKCN1VG1M9
Japan and G7 peers brace for fractious summit in France. (2019, August 22). The Japan Times. Retrieved from: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/08/22/national/politics-diplomacy/japan-g7-peers-brace-fractious-summit-france/#.XY9w5EYzazK.
Japan’s Disappointing G7 Summit. (2019, August 28). The Diplomat. Retrieved from: https://thediplomat.com/2019/08/japans-disappointing-g7-summit/.
World Leaders gather for G7 summit in France. (2019, August 2019). Aljazeera. Retrieved from: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/world-leaders-gather-g7-summit-france-190824133005810.html.

Website:
https://www.internationalrelationsedu.org/what-is-the-g7-its-purpose-and-history-of-influence/

Report:
https://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000286315.pdf
https://www.cigionline.org/sites/default/files/g20no6.pdf
http://www.g8.utoronto.ca/scholar/kirton-jfi-120321.pdf
https://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000510268.pdf

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