Looking back at history
A two-day summit of the Group of Seven (G-7) was wrapped at Ise-Shima in central Japan on 27 May. It was 42nd annual G-7 Summit. The group was originated in 1974. The G-7 comprises Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States. The European Union (EU) also participates. The G-7 is the most effective Western platform in which Japan, the only Asian power, plays an important role.
The Ise-Shima was the only Asian G-7 Summit after the Tokyo Summit was held eight years ago. The first G-7 summit was held in Tokyo in 1979. Japan also hosted G-7 summits in 1986 and 1993 at Tokyo. In 2000, summit was held at Okinawa. Japan has used G-7 to push its global economic agenda.
After Russia was included in 1997, the body was known as G-8 and the first summit on Russian soil at Petersburg was held in 2006 but Russian membership was suspended in 2014 after its annexation of Crimea. With Russia out and China not included, the second largest economy, there are certain questions about the formation of the G-7. Generally, the G-7 leaders talk about global economy and security issues.
At Ise-Shima summit the United States pushed to advance major global economic and political priorities, guided by a set of common values including freedom, democracy, rule of law, and human rights. At the summit, a wide range of issues such as the global economy, trade, counter terrorism, the Middle East, Ukraine, North Korea, climate change, energy, sustainable development, quality infrastructure investment, health and women rights were discussed.
Japan has been looming large on global economic diplomacy in toeing alliance with the West. It has certain complicated issues in Asia especially with China. The G-7 enhanced Tokyo’s prestige on world’s scene once again. Japan is the third largest economy in the world and it is eager to regain its vital economic status if certain concerns were overcome.
The G-7 leaders voiced for inclusive growth, competitive devaluation of currencies, settling territorial disputes in South China Sea, North Korean nuclear threats and demanded that North Korea should fully comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions and halt nuclear tests, missile launches and other provocative actions.
They showed concerns over the Russian policy and its annexation of Crimea and the Ukraine issue. Tokyo vowed to offer US$ 6 billion for socio-economic development of the Middle East in addition to US$ 500 million in aid to Iraq. These were the G-7 security concerns they have shown at Ise-Shima. They, however, were not effective in responding to human displacement issue of migrants from the Middle East into Europe while four European members and the EU participated at Ise-Shima deliberations.
Syria was not the topic of their serious discussions. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are battling with the rebels with Russian aid. Fire in Iraq continues. Libya has been destabilised. The Afghan mess is also an American-NATO creation. They do not want an Afghan-led peace process after killing the Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in an American drone strike in Noshki on 21 May inside Pakistan, which sponsored Taliban-Afghan talks. NATO Warsaw Summit to be held in July would remain elusive to solve the Afghan stalemate without the participation of the key players. All this is not the result of G-7 players in the recent past? The G-7 still dictates its terms on all these issues.
On the top, G-7 leaders specifically targeted China’s stance on South China Sea. They criticised China and said that Beijing is more assertive and making unilateral moves on South China Sea. They again asked for freedom of navigation and over-flight in the area, which China contests against its vital interests in South China Sea. China out-rightly rejected G-7 stance on South China Sea.
Beijing felt uncomfortable over G-7’s announcement. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that “China is extremely dissatisfied with what Japan and the G-7 have done”. The G-7 leaders have perceived the long-term threat from China. They have also shown strong concerns about economic slowdown in China, which affects global growth. They vowed to enhance world’s growth.
The 32-page declaration adopted at Ise-Shima committed to market-based exchange rates and to avoiding “competitive devaluation” of their currencies, while warning against wild exchange and market intervention, a point of clash between Japan and the United States. They asked a balanced policy mix approach to achieve growth.
On 27 May, President Barack Obama visited Peace Park at Hiroshima, becoming the first American leader to visit the area vanished by an atomic bomb in 1945 together with Nagasaki, killing 215,000 Japanese. US Republican Presidential Donald Trump wanted President Obama to mention about Pearl Harbour when Japanese bombarded it on 7 December 1941, killings 2,400 Americans.
Obama did not apologise at Hiroshima.
He talked about nuclear disarmament. He made a passionate appeal against war and nuclear weapons and fully realised the suffering of people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki but he did not apologise. The American logic of 6 August 1945 continues after 71 years. Japan expects differently. This is a “great alliance” and “understanding” and this would continue.
Although Obama did not apologise for the nuclear bombing on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he opened up a new chapter in US-Japan relations. The nuclear bombing has been a taboo in both countries’ relations since 1945. The visit to Hiroshima has great symbolic significance for Japan. The event made the G-7 Ise-Shima Summit meaningful from Japanese point of view.
The summit produced mixed results instead of having a complete coordinated action on global growth and fiscal and monetary issues. Japan wanted to increase consumers’ spending, other differed. Some viewed G-7 at Ise-Shima as “missed opportunity”
Ironically, the second world’s largest economy, China, is not a member of the group. They want China out to dictate their global economic and security agenda as happened at Ise-Shima. As an industrialised economy, China represents developing countries. It criticises Western imperial agenda. The leaders of G-7 are tactfully “dumping” China under the waters of the South China Sea but China has a global economic agenda for the development of the least developed countries.
The One Road One Belt and its flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor are the shining examples of China’s increasing global economic role. They are using G-7 to pivot Asia and to counter China. The G-7 is increasing the gulf between the “haves” and “have nots” in Asia-Pacific and Europe. Unlike G-7, China is bridging differences.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made faulty predictions. The leading Japanese Asahi Shimbun newspaper in its editorial on 29 May states that “misconception that may have seriously distorted G-7 discussions on economic affairs” … “a failure of Abenomics”. The G-7 leaders were totally unconvinced by Abe’s prediction of another Lehman Brothers-type of economic crisis on the ground that global oil prices have recently been rebounded. They were rather convinced that there is global economic recovery at a modest space but there is no crisis.
The writer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. He is an expert on Japan and China.