June 17, 2024
What, at this point, does the high-profile diplomatic summit purport to do?
French President Emmanuel Macron shows a watch made of recycled plastic waste from the ocean and working with solar energy during a work session focused on climate at the G-7 Summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019.
French President Emmanuel Macron shows a watch made of recycled plastic waste from the ocean and working with solar energy during a work session focused on climate at the G-7 Summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019.

At this year’s G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, the summit’s host, President Emmanuel Macron, gave each of the other leaders in attendance a watch made of recycled fishing nets and powered by solar energy. The watches, he explained, symbolized the group’s collective commitment to global sustainability and ocean conservation — though actually, they symbolize the summit’s pointlessness.

Was it always so? In 1975, the leaders of the then-G6 — France, West Germany, Japan, Italy, the U.K., and the U.S. — met outside of Paris to tackle that year’s oil-related financial crisis. The next year, they became the G7, as Canada joined under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (the father of the country’s current prime minister, Justin Trudeau). Soon after, the president of the European Commission was invited to attend, as were other countries. In 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev, then general secretary of the U.S.S.R.’s Communist party, came to observe the summit in London, where it was hoped he’d learn a thing or two about democracy, liberty, and how to make friends and influence people.

Of course, the summit never had any real political or legal force behind it. But the idea was that — given the overwhelming economic clout of the G7, which originally made up almost 70 percent of the global economy, at least in nominal terms, though that has now fallen to around 50 percent — greater transparency on macroeconomics would better prepare and coordinate international markets.

Perhaps inevitably, the scope of the enterprise was soon extended beyond economics. It became a political power show, a festival of diplomacy, and a field day for journalists and political cartoonists around the world. In 1998, Bill Clinton allowed Russia into the club, where it remained until 2014, when it was booted for annexing the Crimea from Ukraine. The idea behind this was, presumably, to humiliate President Putin into changing his ways, which he evidently still hasn’t.

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See Also:

(1) ‘Climate Action’ Flops at the G-7

(2) Maybe we shouldn’t have summits until the next presidency

(3) Brazil trolls Macron, will reject G7’s $20 million to stop Amazon fires

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