01.06.2016 Author: Vladimir Terehov

The Group of Seven Meets in Japan

2811Heads of the US, Japan, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy and Canada held a regular meeting on May 26-27 in the Japanese resort town of Ise-Shima, where they adopted an extensive Declaration consisting of several dozen sections.

The format and scale of this document demonstrates that G7 continues perceiving itself a financial and military as well as moral and intellectual leader of the world, though such ambitions, rooted strictly in a habitual “superiority complex” G7 acquired during the Cold War, are no longer relevant.

For some reason the participants of G7 believe that the world will not “go round” without them expressing their opinion on the topical world issues. Basically, the Declaration (as well as its signing in Ise-Shima) has practical relevance only because it identifies some problems, which, ultimately, cannot be resolved (if they can be resolved at all) without the engagement of new (and often more important for the global processes than G7) parties.

The Declaration mainly focuses on economic problems. The document evokes almost realistic sense of impending catastrophe threatening the world economy, which, paired with massive uncontrolled influx of migrants, instigates political problems of a global scale.

A centerpiece of the part dedicated to economy is the section titled “Trade,” which, on the one hand, reaffirms the intention “to reinforce WTO—the embodiment of a system of multilateral trade control,” but on the other, talks about “useful supplements” to the system, i.e., “block” projects like the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TATIP).

Community of experts, however, has long been holding an opinion that these two politically loaded, aimed at the creation of a global alliance of US-friendly countries “blocks” (that could be used to dictate political rivals and, first of all China, the rules of global economy) were envisioned as substitutes for WTO.

The Declaration reflects G7’s intention to finalize the creation of TPP and TATIP (“before the end of 2016”), and it, actually, was one of the central objectives of Mr. Obama’s participation in the last G7 summit.

However, it is not quite clear how a mere record in a declaratory document could promote the actual implementation of the outlined intentions. Especially if to recall that Mr. Obama is running out of time, and that no matter who is elected the new US president, the level of uncertainty associated with TPP and (even to a greater extent) with TATIP, will once again soar.

The same section “Trade” implies China, the second most prominent global player, (though in an implicit form) in the paragraph that expands on the “negative impact our economies experience from a global excess of production capacities in industrial sectors, especially, in the production of steel.”

In general, in the recent months, western countries extended their “list of complaints against China” with a new item—”overproduction of steel“.

Accusations that “some governments” and “government-supported institutions” subsidize and support national economies in other ways contributing to the “destruction of market mechanisms” are now regularly heard as well.

The section “International Policy” sets countering of terrorism and of extremist trends as a priority. G7 once again promoted itself as a “catalyst for global progress, capable of playing a leading role in the implementation of effective counter-terrorism measures.”

Russia is mentioned in the “Declaration” only twice — in the sections “Syria” and “Ukraine/Russia”. And, if in the first one Russia is spoken of in relatively neutral tone, the document creators were apparently frowning when drafting the second one. The document contains an entire set of “collocations” established at the time of Ukraine crisis: “peaceful settlement of disputes according to the principles of International law,” “respect of Ukraine’s sovereignty,” “illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia,” “the Minsk agreements” (referring to the situation in the eastern regions of Ukraine), “sanctions,” which can be either lifted or tightened “depending on Russia’s conduct.”

It would suffice to remind again that the Group of Seven’s ambitions it acquired during the era of the Cold War are out of touch with reality. That, “multiplied” by misunderstandings tearing apart the participants of G7 (which will be only escalating due to objective reasons), G7 would resemble a Pickwick Club, i.e., a place where members are mainly preoccupied with the “observation of human nature.” Actually, we cannot say that this process is unimportant, and efforts of employees of think tanks of the member states, who drafted the document summing up the results of the regular G7 session, deserve appreciation, despite the document contains (quite expectedly) items unpalatable for Russia.

Actually, the fact that head of the key G7 member, i.e., US President Barack Obama put participation in the forum on the agenda of his (tenth) Asian tour speaks for itself.

Almost undoubtedly, his visit to Vietnam and the memorial in Hiroshima in the course of the trip  (President Obama skipped the second day of the forum in Ise-Shim to visit Hiroshima) had a greater practical implication than participation in the “new edition” of the “Pickwick Club.” If to wait just a little and stay clear from gross bloopers, it would, most probably, turn out that each member of G7 is, in fact, quite a cooperative counterpart willing to resolve pending problems, which means that global processes that are beyond the control or capabilities of the “observers of human nature” will earlier or later compel them to be more flexible.

The only opportunity that some particularly active members of the “Pickwick Club” really have right now is to set up as many “political mines” in East Asia and Eastern Europe as possible in that short period of time that is still left, so as to complicate the work of the future supporters of changes in, say, US-Russian or US-Chinese relations.

Vladimir Terekhov, an expert on problems of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.