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  • Lawrence Bailey

Not quite part of the gang anymore



According to one senior broadcast journalist, the G7 summit last week represented “a major statement of intent from the West's most powerful politicians”.

Aside from a sneaking suspicion that said journo would struggle to name the seven participating countries without looking at her notes, I’m left wondering how many people share that assessment.

The G7 (Group of Seven) is a chummy alliance made up of the world's largest so-called advanced economies. These are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States. The qualification for membership is recognition as a player by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the status of “liberal democracy” – whatever that means these days.

It became the G8 when Russia joined but went back to seven in 2014 after Putin did a hegemony number in the Crimea and the others objected.

China has never been a member, despite its huge economy and the world's biggest population. The reason for ineligibility is the relatively low level of wealth per person, says the IMF.

Just so we’re clear, the G7 (also known as the Gang of Seven in anti-capitalist circles) shouldn’t be confused with the G20 group, which has a much broader policy coordination role - or with the World Economic Forum which meets annually in the exclusive Swiss ski resort of Davos and can talk about anything it damn well likes.

An increasing number of voices have questioned both the role and relevance of these self-appointed bodies in recent times. Not least of these was Donald Trump who admittedly tended to have little empathy with global accords.

Unsurprisingly, new White House incumbent Joe Biden, in his eagerness to rehabilitate the US back into political reality, took the opportunity of attending the Cornwall conference as his first overseas engagement

This was despite the odd choice of location which, we’re told, was selected because of the region’s pivotal status within the UK's green technology sector. Basically, it was an opportunity to show off some environmental innovations prior to the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in November.

Few in the media felt it worth mentioning that Boris Johnson rather ruined the ethos by arriving from London by jet; but we’re kind of getting used to this level of under-the-radar reporting.

Anyway, among those statements of intent previously quoted was a pledge to vaccinate poorer countries against the coronavirus, a promise to make large corporations pay their fair share of taxes and plans to tackle climate change through technology and money. All very laudable, and some of it could even be achievable in the long term.

There were also “expressions of concern” about the various negative roles played by Russia and China globally. It was a bit familiar in content but if nothing else, the official communique language served to clarify that the band was more or less back together, ideologically speaking anyway.

And yet with all the positive vibes in play from such an impressive assemblage, Johnson somehow let the comparatively easy objective of “sorting” the Northern Ireland impasse slip through his hands.

Maybe that’s because - as another experienced journalist pointed out - the thing that appeared to most unite the world leaders, including Joe Biden, was their differences with the UK over the mechanics of a post-Brexit settlement.

It might have been intended as a unity showcase but host or not, and for all the trite photo opportunities, Britain just didn’t look like part of the gang anymore. At least, not where it mattered.


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