G7 Research Group G7 Information Centre
Summits |  Meetings |  Publications |  Research |  Search |  Home |  About the G7 Research Group
University of Toronto

A Significant Security-Centred Success:
Prospects for the G7 Charlevoix Summit in 2018

John Kirton, G7 Research Group
April 18, 2018
[pdf, including appendices]


The Significance of the Summit

On June 8-9, 2018, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau will host the most powerful leaders of the world's most powerful, economically advanced democracies, for the 44th annual Group of Seven (G7) summit, the sixth that Canada has held. It will take place at the Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie in the Charlevoix region of Quebec, Canada, 150 kilometres northeast of Quebec City, where the media covering the event will work.

Coming to Canada for the first time as leader and to his second G7 summit will be President Donald Trump of the United States, as his mid-term congressional elections on November 6, 2018, approach and his policies on trade, climate change and much else evolve. British prime minister Theresa May will also attend her second G7 summit, searching for new trade deals with G7 countries as her "Brexit" deadline looms. French president Emmanuel Macron will come from Canada's other founding country to his second G7 summit and his first in the French-speaking world. Also arriving will be the prime minister of Italy, whose country hosted the G7 in 2017, and Germany's veteran Chancellor Angela Merkel, who hosted the G7 summit in 2007 and G20 summit in 2017. Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe and the European Union's Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker will also attend, affirming Canada's position as a major power throughout Europe and in Asia. Welcoming these leaders will be Canada's 47-year-old prime minister, Justin Trudeau, at this third G7 summit and his first as host.

Supporting the G7's work in 2018 are leaders invited to the summit from carefully chosen countries and international organizations, G7 ministers at their four meetings, and an energetic civil society led by engagement groups for business, labour, civil society, women, youth, science and think tanks.

The Charlevoix Summit will be a significant event. It takes place amidst growing populism, protectionism and provincialism, as G7 leaders, their voters and others are tempted to turn inward to temper the inequalities that globalization has brought. It also takes place at a time of urgent global threats, led by the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction, North Korean nuclear and missile proliferation, Russian attacks and relentless climate change.

To address these concerns, G7 leaders will focus on the five priorities that Trudeau has set: investing in growth that works for everyone; preparing for jobs of the future; advancing gender equality and women's empowerment; working together on climate change, oceans and clean energy; and building a more peaceful and secure world. The first priority of improving inclusive economic growth includes the state of the economy, fiscal and monetary policy, tax, trade, investment and infrastructure. The second priority of generating good jobs for all, including youth, embraces redesigning education to foster innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship in a digital age. The third overriding, cross-cutting priority is enhancing gender equality. The fourth priority includes controlling climate change as a current compelling threat, protecting the natural environment, enhancing the environment and the economy together through clean technology and in other ways, and protecting the world's vast oceans from plastic and other pollutants. The peace and security priority addresses threats ranging from the use of chemical weapons in Europe and Syria, nuclear and missile proliferation in North Korea; regional security risks in Ukraine and the Baltic states, the Middle East and North Africa, Venezuela and Asia; to terrorism, crime and corruption, and violations of democracy and human rights throughout the world, including via the world wide web.

Development issues, while not a priority, will be addressed throughout, guided by Canada's feminist international development policy launched in 2017. An accountability report for complying with past commitments on gender will appear.

The Debate among Competing Schools of Thought

What will the Charlevoix Summit do, for its members and the world? On this there arose a debate among seven schools of thought.

Failure from Trump

The first school forecasts failure, due to the dark cloud cast by the leader of the G7's and planet's most powerful country, Donald Trump. Trump will be coming to Canada for the first time, much later than most newly elected U.S. presidents. He will bring his nationalism, populism, protectionism and unpredictability to a country whose citizens' distinctive national values (DNVs) are antithetical to his. So many predict a stormy summit, with Trump vetoing any serious advances the other leaders will want to make. Thus Canada will be a "beautiful loser", rather than the global leader it has been in the G7 before, most recently as host at Muskoka in 2008 and earlier at Kananaskis in 2002 (Kirton 2018a, b).

Opportunity Missed

The second school sees an opportunity missed, particularly on health. Valerie Percival (2018) notes Trudeau's "reluctance to advance a broader health agenda" beyond reproductive rights for women and his failure to host a G7 health ministers meeting, at recent hosts had done. Highlighting past G7 achievements on HIV/AIDS, polio and Canada's leadership on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health at Muskoka in 2010, and current global needs for action on non-communicable disease, she suggests Trudeau's hesitation is due to Trump's antipathy to reproductive rights and abortion, Canada's failure to raise its funds for international assistance and Trudeau's focus on domestically popular photo-ops as his re-election year approached.

Self-Inflicted Canadian Caution

The third school sees self-inflicted Canadian caution. Tony Fell (2018) notes that Canada does "reasonably well by Group of Seven standards, but that's not the measure. Why set the bar so low?" He cites Canada's poor performance in producing balanced budgets, competitiveness, energy, infrastructure, defence spending, ballistic missile defence and inter-provincial trade. In a similar spirit, David Mulroney (2018) more broadly sees "a Canadian foreign policy that appears to be seriously off the rails" especially in regard to Asia, due to Trudeau's impetuosity and his "obsession with diaspora politics" and exotic photo ops.

Unwise Choice of G7 over G20

The fourth school sees an unwise choice of the G7 over the G20. The most recent Canadian Foreign Policy Journal Report Card (2018: 11-12) released in early March 2018 argues, in its brief references to the G7, "In fact, the Canadian government intends to put Venezuela, Iran and North Korea at the top of the G7 agenda later this year even though many of the countries who are most affected by these conflicts are not part of the G7. Few international issues these days can be properly solved without G20 members like Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa … Nevertheless, Trudeau intends to champion his government's feminist foreign policy at the G7 where it is likely to find both support from the Germans and push back from the US, specifically on reproductive health rights, including contraception, sex education and legal abortion."

Intimate Relationships Matter

The fifth school argues that intimate "relationships matter" (Carmichael 2018). Highlighting the summit's private deliberation and the value of face-to-face talks, it argues that unlike the bigger, more diverse G20 summit, the G7 allows members to complain about China and Russia, discuss common problems and have a peer exchange to learn about others' successes and failures. This was shown at the G7 employment and innovation ministers' meeting in Montreal in late March.

Russia as the Centrepiece Shock-Activated Success

The sixth school sees Russia, not gender, as Charlevoix's centrepiece success. This was due to the shock of the Russian nerve gas attack in the UK on March 4 and the failure of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and North American Treaty Organization (NATO) in response (Glavin 2018, Robertson 2018). Terry Glavin (2018) argues that the summit should act as planned on opportunities to advance gender equality, climate change control and jobs of the future, but should highlight a united response to Russian president Vladimir Putin's aggression. This is due to the shocks from Chechnya, Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine's Donbass, Crimea, Syria, cyber-espionage, and election interference, capped by Russia's nerve gas attack in the UK. With Russia and China holding a veto at the UNSC and Turkey and Trump constraining NATO's response, only the G7 is left to provide a united response, with Canada's foreign minister Chrystia Freeland well positioned to lead.

Substantial Success

The seventh school sees substantial success. At the start of Canada's year as host, Katrina Bland (2018) highlighted several promising parts of Canada's approach. By early February John Kirton (2018a, b) saw several signs that Trudeau would "succeed, given what we know has produced summit success in the past." Kirton forecast easy success on security, advances on inclusive economic growth, employment and gender, but a difficult challenge on climate change, oceans and clean energy. He cautioned that Trudeau was not addressing health and Africa, nor trying to mobilize money, which had propelled Canada's strong success at Muskoka in 2010 and early at Kananaskis in 2002. In mid-April, he added that Canadians strongly supported him on climate change and security but would on development too (Kirton 2018c).


Such predictions often reflect a poor understanding of how the G7 works and how Canada has overcome similar challenges in the past (see Appendices A, B, C [download]). Moreover, some schools may have underestimated how much Canada's summit planners and their partners might be deterred in their preparations by the looming presence of Trump. But they may even more underestimate the evidence of Canada coping well with Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush in the past and how politically weaker Trump might be when he arrives at Charlevoix in June.

[back to top]


A closer look suggests that the G7's Charlevoix Summit will be a significant, security-centred success. It will produce historic support for military force against Syria's use of chemical weapons; more unified, effective, punitive and deterrent action against Russia, through stronger sanctions, cyber-security, and support for Ukraine; and new moves against terrorism and nuclear and missile proliferation from North Korea. It will be the G7's and the world's first genuine gender equality summit, by innovatively mainstreaming and linking gender across the economic, social, sustainability and security domains. It will pioneer actions for ecological protection against plastics' and coastal pollution, advance action on climate change and overfishing and boost resilient communities and clean energy, to expand when G7 environment and energy ministers meet in the autumn. It will foster cooperation on trade and investment. However, innovative initiatives on inclusive economic growth, jobs of the future, development and health will largely be left to the G20 summit in Buenos Aires at the end of November 2018.

Such success will be spurred by the security shocks arising from Syria's use of chemical weapons on April 7, 2018, Russia's nerve gas attack in the UK on March 4, 2018, the terrorist murders in Thebes, France, in late March, and North Korea's proliferating nuclear and missile tests in the autumn of 2017. They are joined by the smaller, earlier energy, environmental and gender shocks, from the oil price spike in mid-April, the "me too" movement and the hurricanes devastating the Caribbean and southeastern U.S. in September. Multilateral organizational failure, in the form of a veto paralyzed the UNSC and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a UN system with no organization dedicated to gender equality and a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with an inadequate Paris Accord with a U.S. withdrawal, will cause the G7 to fill the gap. This will be further fueled by restored, more reliable and shared economic growth. The G7 has enough, if declining, collectively predominant and internally equalizing overall and specialized capabilities to produce the required response, especially in the security fields. Its members will be united by the direct assault from these shocks to their common principles, notably the G7's foundational mission of promoting open democracy and human rights, its core value of ecological conservation and its recent recognition that women's rights are human rights. To be sure, its success will be importantly constrained by the low domestic political cohesion in several members, notably the powerful United States and Japan. Yet its dynamic as the leaders' cherished club will be enhanced by its isolated setting, the experience of its participants, and the likeable informality of Justin Trudeau as its host and Donald Trump as its most prominent attendee.

[back to top]

Plans and Preparations

Canada's plans for its summit began at an early stage (see Appendix D [download]). Just over a year before the summit, Canada had identified the need for a very robust consultative process based on openness and transparency, inclusiveness and gender equality. It sought to set a good example for other countries to follow.

The signature item for Canada in 2018, in keeping with the direction of Canadian society, is to empower women and goals. Civil society urged five steps: ensuring that girls and women have access to education, streamlining the transition from education to the workplace (equal pay etc.), adding accountability and metrics to provide evidence, implementing a carrot and stick approach, and using immediate powerful tools to improve the representation of women and girls in the workplaces. Canada's sherpa team saw these as good recommendations.

Canada examined different options for the G7 communiqué and for creative partnerships with non-state actors. Discussions with leading donors had created a sense that the capacity for state funding was less than in the past. So Canada examined creative means to compensate. The next step would be to ensure that the technical capacity was present. The World Bank has been active here.

The challenge over the past year has been to get the message out and ensure that enough enthusiasm for Canada's priorities. There were many options. Canada believed in a pluralist world. Figuring out an initiative and how to develop it was crucial. There was high international recognition of Canada, so expectations were very high. This would depend on the financial cost, because summits require a lot of security. Canadians would say that if the government spent so much money, it should have clear results. It had to be approached in a way that was meaningful, Canada wished create a more simplified process. This meant reaching out to those who might want to be involved, particularly youth, through social media and other means.

Here the challenge was how to make the G7 interesting for youth, when the last summit in Canada was eight years ago in 2010. The government wished to be inclusive in generating ideas. After Italy's presidency was over, Canada could start preparing the ground and gathering ideas. Much more could be done at universities for engagement, especially the young, were thinking in different terms than politicians. At a time when people were criticizing the system, Canada's image was very important.

In stark contrast to the 1995 Halifax Summit that saw leaders walk among the local citizens, many young people remembered the G20 summit in Toronto in 2010 for its protests. Thus communicating to youth needed to include educating them about this aspect of summitry, including the security costs. Thus the sherpa office sought to connect with the young people in its network.

On various elements of the G7 agenda Canada has related domestic policies that it should implement, in ways visible to Canadians. In particular, Ottawa was being flooded with media calls about what could be expected if climate change continued.

[back to top]

The Domestic Consultations

Canada began its domestic consultations in late November 2017 with a session at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, followed by ones at Laval University in Quebec City and at the University of Toronto on December 7-8. At Toronto's opening town hall the audience chose climate change as its top priority. Concerns centred on how to avoid another "G6" on the Paris Agreement and how to get Canada to wean itself off carbon. The other two questions on climate change offered potential recommendations for achieving a carbon-free Canada. The first challenged Canada on its continued subsidization of the fossil fuel industry, stating that Canada contributed "$1.8 billion in fossil fuel subsidies," despite its repeated G7 commitment to phase out such subsidies. The second wondered if there would be any discussion on climate change education outside of academia, for example in the workplace.

Sherpa Meeting 1, Waterloo, January 31

The first of the four meetings of the leaders' personal representatives, or sherpas, was held at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario, on January 31, 2018. The days before several sherpas consulted with representatives of civil society and the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Toward the end of February the foreign affairs sous-sherpas (FASS) met in Ottawa to discuss gender, oceans and accountability.

Sherpa Meeting 2, Victoria, March 7-8

The second sherpa meeting took place at Pearson College in Victoria, British Columbia, on March 7-8, 2018. On its first day, the sherpas discussed the themes that Trudeau had identified in December. The first and foremost was investing in growth that works for everyone. There was a good discussion on jobs of the future. The Gender Advisory Council membership was announced and sherpas discussed mainstreaming gender equality and women's empowerment in all their work. In the evening, they discussed peace and security, focusing on some of the global hotspots and how leaders would address them in Charlevoix. On the second day, they discussed the environment and oceans. There were good discussions all round. There was engagement with students and with some experts who came to discuss oceans and some climate change issues on the second day.

On the first day sherpas discussed jobs of the future, including artificial intelligence, on which they had a dialogue with experts. They looked ahead to the ministerial meeting on this subject at the end of March. In Montreal there would be two ministerial meetings, as the labour ministers and the economic, development and innovation ministers would meet in parallel. They were scheduled to have a common session to consider how to move forward on the impact of destructive technologies and artificial intelligence. This was new, because labour ministers had previously looked at social policy and the impact on the gender and wage gap, while science ministers looked at innovation and ensuring that technology could work. Having them together for several hours meant that the G7 could move forward on analysis and data and the impact on jobs, retraining and ensuring youth were prepared to enter the job market with the requisite job training and skills. It would be a fairly technical discussion, to be elevated to the leaders' track and discussed at Charlevoix.

Privacy issues and cybersecurity are a major G7 theme. They were discussed when the foreign ministers met in April in Toronto, along with the interior ministers together and separately. They will be elevated to the leaders' level. There had been a brief discussion of them in Italy in 2017. There were aspects there that underscored the need of G7 members to stick to their democratic principles and values. These were crosscutting themes that will also be addressed by the finance ministers meeting at end of May.

At this second sherpa meeting, the U.S. participated in the same way all the other countries were. There were good, fairly robust discussions. There was not agreement on everything. It was hard to avoid discussing a rules-based international system, in the World Trade Organization (WTO) on trade or in the UN on peace and security and development. The U.S. was present and prepared and made constructive proposals in areas ranging from development to some immediate security issues. Everyone was committed to the Charlevoix Summit and to making the year-long Canadian presidency a success.

There were degrees of consensus among all members on everything. There were G7 legacy themes taken forward, some of which did not surface with much regularity and there was a fair amount of agreement on these. On gender equality, there was substantial agreement with the issue and the Canadian approach.

The leaders always had a discussion of the global economy and trade was part of that. Countries were engaged. Whether they were engaged on a plurilateral or regional or bilateral basis, were side issues to the G7 but would impact the overall discussion. Here the big issues of the moment were steel, aluminum and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations. Japan and the EU were about to announce their free trade agreement. There was the discussion on Brexit with the UK. They were part of a broader discussion of trade and economic growth and how the G7 saw the future.

Climate change was a very broad file. Canada would focus on oceans, notably plastics and fisheries, and the resilience of coastal communities. This was a practical approach. On oceans, the focus would be on small island developing states and coastal regions. The impact of the recent major hurricanes on Houston and Puerto Rico were a coastal resilience issue, whether one agreed that hurricanes were increasing because of climate change. The U.S. and other countries very much agreed to have a robust discussion of this. There would likely be a discussion of marine litter too.

[back to top]

The Ministerial Meetings

Employment and Innovation, Montreal, March 27-28

The first of four stand-alone ministerial meetings was that for ministers of employment and innovation, in Montreal on March 27-28 (see Appendix D). At its end, the ministers issued a News Release, Chair's Summary, and three Annexes. The Chair's Summary contained seven commitments. Annex A, 2018 G7 Employment Outcomes, had four commitments; Annex B, G7 Innovation Ministers' Statement on Artificial Intelligence, had 27; and Annex C, G7 Innovations Minister's Statement on Stimulating Innovation, had none. The total of 38 commitments was the second highest in G7 history dating back to the first such meeting in Detroit in March 1994. It was exceeded only by the 41 commitments made in Berlin in October 2015. It made many references to the priority of gender equality but none to climate change.

Foreign Affairs and Security, Toronto, April 22-24

On April 22–24, 2018, G7 foreign and security (interior) ministers met at the University of Toronto, with Canada's foreign minister Chrystia Freeland in the chair. Foreign ministers met alone for the first day and a half, were joined by security ministers on the second day, who then met alone on the third day.

At a consultation at the University of Toronto on April 10, Freeland noted that ministers would focus on the summit's peace and security priority, covering the pressing and difficult international questions of the day. These were Russia and the Salisbury nerve gas attack in the UK, on which she had had many conversations with her G7 colleagues. They included the Russian-related issues of Ukraine and Syria. Also discussed would be North Korea, which was important for Japan, the plight of the Rohingya, which was very important to Freeland; Venezuela; and making the rules-based international order fit for the 21st century. The final issue, which Freeland sees as one of the defining debates of the time, was the struggle between democracy and authoritarianism.

Finance and Development Ministers, May 31−June 2

On May 31–June 2, 2018, just before the summit's start on June 8, G7 finance ministers, central bank governors and development ministers will meet in Whistler, British Columbia.

Environment and Energy Ministers, September

G7 ministers responsible for the environment, oceans and energy will meet in the autumn. They will do so around the time of other such meetings, at the UN, in California convened by its governor and ahead of another summit to be hosted by Emmanuel Macron.

[back to top]

The Host Leader's Pre-Summit Tour

Prime Minister Trudeau has been increasingly involved in the summit preparations, in part through the pre-summit tour with his G7 partners that the host traditionally takes.

Trudeau began at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2018. In his major address he exclusively highlighted his priority of gender equality and announced the formation of two new councils, one co-chaired by Melinda Gates, to advise him on how to proceed. He also held a private session on climate change and oceans.

In late April Trudeau travelled to the Summit of the Americas in Peru, wapphere he met U.S. vice-president Mike Pence, who was substituting for Donald Trump, and Argentinian president Mauricio Macri, the latter to discuss coordination of the G7 summit with the G20 one Macri would host in Buenos Aires on November 30-December 1, 2018. Trudeau then went to Paris to meet with Macron and the heads of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), la Francophonie and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), then to the London to meet Prime Minister May and the 53 leaders of the Commonwealth at their biennial Heads of Government Meeting on April 16 to 20.

[back to top]

Partners' Priorities

The priorities and perspectives of Canada's G7 partners showed sufficient convergence to suggest that the summit would be a success in several ways.

United States

As usual, the U.S. would set its priorities shortly before the summit, treating it as just another international meeting for the president rather than a central annual event to shape global order. This tendency was now increased by the recent change in many members of President Trump's national security team, including the Secretary of State, where Mike Pompeo replaced Rex Tillerson, and the National Security Advisor, where John Bolton was appointed. A similar change came in the head of the National Economic Council, where TV commentator Larry Kudlow replaced former Goldman Sachs CEO Gary Cohen.

Yet U.S. representatives have participated in an engaged and serious fashion in the preparatory meetings, and brought initiatives of their own. One was to have the G7 assemble an international coalition to combat opioids and synthetic drugs (Woo and Hager 2018). In late March, James Walsh, deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement highlighted the soaring overdose rates in the U.S. and Canada, with 10 times as many Americans killed each year than had been by heroin in the 1970s and crack in the 1980s. He argued it was a national security and health threat and a global problem requiring a global response, as criminals could export opioids from the U.S. to G7 partners and elsewhere. He noted Canada had joined the U.S. to work within international organizations to try to control such substances.

By mid-April, the U.S. was focused on a more familiar security threat — the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction by Russia in the UK on March 4, 2018, and then by its ally Bashar al-Assad in Syria on April 7. The first attack led to a new round of simultaneous sanctions from all G7 partners and others against Russia. The second led to a military strike on April 13 by the U.S., UK and France on Assad's chemical weapons infrastructure. It also inspired a rare special G7 leaders' statement on April 16 condemning Assad's use of chemical weapons and supporting the U.S. led military attack (G7 2018). This was the first intersessional leaders' statement since the two in March 2014, in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. It was the strongest. clearest G7 endorsement of its members use of force ever, following those contained in G7 summit declarations in regard to Iraq in 1991, Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2002, Libya in 2011, Mali in 2013 and ISIS in 2015 (Kirton and Kulik 2018).

More broadly, the U.S. approach could be inferred from its extensive shift in April to multilateral cooperation in other fields. In trade these included concessions in the negotiations for a revised NAFTA, Trump's temporary exemption of all G7 partners but Japan from the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports he had imposed and the suggestion that the U.S. might rejoin a revised Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) that Japan, Canada and nine other countries had concluded. Trump had unilaterally withdrawn from the previous version the US had pioneered.

In development, in another U.S. move toward multilateral cooperation, in the week before the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank semiannual meetings in Washington D.C. on April 20-21, came U.S. support for its share of a major capital increase for the World Bank, along with conditions that its G7 partners and World Bank members seemed ready to meet (Donnan 2018). Under its terms, Washington would back a $13 billion increase in the Bank's capital ($7.5 billion for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and $5.5 billion into the International Finance Corporation). China, the World Bank's top borrower taking 11% of total loans in 2017, would be charged a higher interest rate for its loans, while poorer countries such as India would be charged lower ones. This provided a potential major new source of finance for the commitments that the G7 leaders at Charlevoix might make.


Well before Canada had assumed the G7 chair for its year as host, France had started to prepare its approach and priorities for the Charlevoix Summit and for its own year as G7 host in 2019 (Kirton 2018c). This was hardly surprising for the country that had launched G7 summitry at Rambouillet in November 1975 and whose current president, Emmanuel Macron was bringing new energy and innovation to international institutions in Europe and the world. Although many adjustments will come as the two G7 summits approach, France is likely to build its contribution on several firm foundations.

France views the established G7 summit as governing alongside the newer G20 one. It sees a division of labour between the two, with the G7 focused more on peace and security, reflecting the fact that three of its members also belong to the Permanent Five members of the UNSC. It also sees the G7 as still having a significant role on Africa and on development. While the G20 is also involved here, Africa should remain a priority for the G7. A valuable addition to the G7 agenda was the natural environment and climate change. This was not only to support the UNFCCC, but also to advance climate change control in other ways.

France has three priorities for 2018 and prospectively for 2019. The first is climate change. It sees this as the primary challenge for humanity as a whole.

The second priority is human development. This should be done in a comprehensive way to support development as a whole. This includes education, particularly the replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education. France has pressured all G7 members to support this replenishment process. Other aspects of human development were gender equality and other gender issues.

The third priority is the set of peace, security and safety issues centred on Syria, terrorism, and migration, with the latter rooted in underdevelopment, especially in the region of the Middle East and North Africa.

France is proud of two particular contributions it has made to G7 and G20 governance. The first was the Deauville Partnership. In 2011, at the start of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, the G7 had collectively thought that it needed to support the democratic change. The Deauville Partnership sought to have not only G8 countries (with Russia as a member of the club then) involved, but also Gulf countries and international organizations such as the IMF and World Bank, to put a comprehensive policy in place. Now, six years later, it was time to evaluate the results. The partnership had brought good coordination and some funding, but to move forward the policy must now change.

The second contribution was through the G20. France's G20 presidency, culminating in the Cannes Summit in November 2011, was about levelling the playing field. Leveling the playing field, especially across western countries, in trade, social, environmental and financial issues was critical. The G20 had been an adequate forum for helping China adhere to the global rules, established by the IMF and others, and for giving it a bigger place at the table at the IMF and World Bank. The G20 had been advancing these goals, especially in regard to China and levelling the playing field for environmental and social standards.

The G7 was more relevant since the creation of the G20. Since G20 legitimacy was no longer as much of a pressing issue, the legitimacy of G7 was less questioned too.

The difference in views between France and the U.S. has not prevented France from talking with the U.S. and its closest allies, including on its first priority of climate change. Indeed, the U.S. is not a monolith. There is great potential for action on climate change coming from the sub-federal level. Limiting confrontation, France has been talking to American states themselves to advance work on climate change.

Moreover, while the G7 was working on climate change and anticipated a report from its Working Group on Climate Change and Fragility under the 2017 Taormina presidency, it is not the only forum through which France was dealing with climate change negotiations. There was the UNFCCC and its Sustainable Development Goals, which features climate change as a cross-cutting issue, along with other related global threats such as food insecurity. The G20 was also doing work here.

The G20 was based on economic weight. But what made the G7, and what had brought Russia to join and to leave, showed the common democratic denominator between G7 members. Russia was asked to join the club because there was a reset in foreign policy towards China. Russia, in Putin's first term, was open to being a team player — but not anymore.

United Kingdom

The UK, knowing it would chair the G7 in 2021, had started Canada's year with eight priorities, flowing from British foreign policy as a whole and thus its thrust in all international forums.

The first is modern slavery. It seeks by the end of 2018 to double the number of the existing 37 endorsements for the call to action to tackle modern slavery (such as trafficking and those employed in treacherous conditions). Canada had expressed that it wanted to address this through the gender lens in the G7. Current G20 host Argentina said it wanted to look at slavery through supply chains in the G20.

The second is a global economy that works for all. This is in line with Canada's focus on middle class growth, and Canada's and Argentina's priority on the future of work. The UK would emphasize four areas: the global trading system, growth for all, skills for citizens in the digital economy and business playing by the rules.

The third is terrorism, with a likely focus on the internet FANGs of Facebook, Alphabet, Netflix and Google.

The fourth is migration, a significant challenge in 2018, with major work being planned by the UN Compact.

The fifth is climate change, a central theme for Canada. Charlevoix would be a unique moment to send a signal on the Paris Agreement. At the G20 in Argentina, the UK is set to rally support around India's solar initiatives.

The sixth is gender, another central theme of Canada's presidency. Given the UK's strong track record here, it seeks to share its expertise on economic empowerment and women and girls education. It also seeks to continue implementing the 2030 Agenda and to support the high-level panel on women's economic empowerment.

The seventh is other humanitarian issues, namely food insecurity, with famine in some countries narrowly avoided. But the G7 should not just look at emergencies but at long-term prevention too.

The eight is to drive a unified western response, not just a G7 one, against security threats. Here North Korea, Russia and Iran are core policy issues where the G7 would have a unique role to play.

More generally, the UK wants to leave 2018 with a unified G7 in the face of particular challenges such as climate change. It further wants Canada to have a successful presidency and to build a more peaceful world.

[back to top]

Prospects for Performance

As the preparations for Charlevoix enter their final 60 days, there were signs that it will be a significant success, relative to how G7 summits had performed in the past (see Appendices A, B, C [download]). This success would be driven by advances on security and, above all, gender.


On security, success should be easy. All leaders will agree to act more strongly against terrorism, especially returning ISIS fighters, and cyber radicalization and recruitment through firms that hide behind the arguments of free speech, privacy and property rights. Russia and North Korea will be sanctioned. China will be discussed and perhaps admonished by name in the communiqué. Myanmar and Venezuela will be scolded for violating democracy and human rights but little else will be done. The Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan will be treated in a similar way.


On the economy, leaders will again endorse the need for "free and fair" trade, a modernized WTO and trade sanctions against Russia and North Korea. They will act against China's dumping, and discriminatory intellectual property, technology transfer and investment regimes. They may even say encouraging things about the ongoing NAFTA negotiations and the new CPTPP that Donald Trump has suggested he may rejoin. They will promise to forgo and to raise their interest rates in a careful, even coordinated way to contain the cost of the capital they seek. They will enthusiastically endorse the need for infrastructure investment, to boost productivity, trade and employment.


On jobs, all want more secure, better paying jobs for everyone. Here Donald Trump will have much to preach about, as he did recently in his State of the Union Address. All the leaders will agree that workers need to be educated to survive and thrive in the new digital economy. Each can offer policies that have worked at home for the others to adopt. The divisive issue of getting jobs for immigrants will be side-stepped, for only Justin Trudeau's Canadians believe that this is a good thing.


On gender, Taormina's success on women in the workplace will be reinforced. Leaders will heartily endorse the reports of the new women's advisory council that Trudeau announced at Davos in January. It will be harder to meet his ambitious desire to mainstream gender equality everywhere, by, for example, having monetary, climate and security policy credibly work for women. It is doubtful if robust language endorsing sexual and reproductive rights, gender identity and the #MeToo movement will survive the drafting of a consensus-driven communiqué.

There will be no $40 billion in new money to improve the lives of women, to match what the Muskoka Summit did in 2010. Charlevoix is thus likely to lack the credible, comprehensive, centrepiece achievement of the sort that the 2002 Kananaskis and 2010 Muskoka summits had.

Climate, Oceans and Clean Energy

Climate change, oceans and clean energy will be the most difficult issue. It could define the overall success of the summit, especially if an energy or ecological disaster erupts on the summit's eve. The memories of recent hurricanes hammering the U.S., or fires destroying Fort McMurray and Californian vineyards could easily be reawakened by smaller disasters that climate change makes more likely by the day.

The climate threat has become compellingly clear. The past three years were the world's warmest ever. The oceans are steadily warming, reducing their value as sinks that absorb carbon from the atmosphere. The world's forests are shrinking, turning this carbon sink to a carbon source as trees are burned and cleared. Even the U.S. military has said that half of its global bases are already harmed by climate change, including those not on the coasts. The Canadian military is probably similarly exposed in the Arctic above all. The latest Global Risks Report prepared for the World Economic Forum in Davos in January placed climate change and its consequences as by far the greatest risk to the world. It is what the global big business community is most scared about.

Overall Performance

At the moment there will be no substantial new money mobilized to finance any of these goals. This could change as the Charlevoix Summit approaches.

[back to top]

Propellers of Performance

These prospects for a solid success were propelled by the current condition of those causes that had reliably delivered summit success in the past, as identified in the concert equality model of G7 governance (Kirton 1993).

Shock-Activated Vulnerability

The first propellers are the shocks that make leaders aware of their shared vulnerability and their need to "hang together" in response (see Appendix E [download]). In the year before the Charlevoix Summit, such shocks were low and skewed toward security.


Security shocks were led by Russia's nerve gas attack in the United Kingdom in March 2018 and then by Syria's use of chemical weapons, with Russia's acquiescence, in Dhouma in early April. The former led G7 members to expel Russian diplomats and to introduce sanctions, followed by a collective G7 statement. The second led to a military strike by the U.S., UK and France, and a G7 leaders' statement that represented the strongest endorsement of its members' use of military force that the G7 had ever made.

The second security shock came from a steady succession of North Korean nuclear and missile tests in the autumn, culminating in the prospect that North Korea would soon be able to strike the U.S. and all G7 countries' homelands with nuclear missiles. Yet as 2018 unfolded, this negative shock was replaced with a positive one, as the two Koreas cooperated in the winter Olympics and on a prospective summit, leading to President Trump's willingness to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and the latter's announcement that Kim Jong-un would freeze his missile and nuclear program and dismantle his nuclear test site.

The third security shock was mounting evidence of Russia's use of its cyber capabilities to interfere in the U.S. presidential elections in 2016 and elsewhere. It also engaged in cyber espionage, as other countries, such as China, also had.

The fourth security shock came in much diminished form from terrorism, with an attack in Thebes, France in 2018.

The fifth security shock of interstate aggression and annexation was virtually absent, although China's steady expansion of claims and construction of islands from reefs in the South China Sea remain a concern.

In the political sphere, the continuing, if hardly shocking, diminution of open democracy and human rights strengthened in Russia with its presidential elections on March 18, in China with President Xi Jinping's move to become president for life, and, some would add, from Donald Trump's U.S. This was offset by political changes and opening up in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia.

Energy and Ecology

In the energy sphere, a small shock came from the rise of world oil prices to approach $75.00 for a barrel of Brent crude in mid-April, due in part to military conflict in the Middle East (in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Syria) and unrest in Venezuela.

Ecological shocks had erupted in full force with deadly hurricanes hitting the U.S. and the Caribbean in late summer of 2017 and the storms afflicting New England in the first three months of 2018. In April, a massive blackout of the unrepaired power grid in Puerto Rico revived memories of the 2017 hurricanes and the need for greater climate resilience along vulnerable ocean coastlines, including the southern and eastern U.S. and the Caribbean territories of the UK, France and other EU members.

Social Shocks

Social shocks were smaller but steadily gaining strength. Migration across the Mediterranean into Europe had diminished from the previous year, but rose as the favourable summer weather approached. Myanmar produced a new shocking source of Rohingya refugees fleeing ethnic cleansing, a subject of growing concern in Canada and the UK. A disintegrating Venezuela provided another source.

Gender shocks arose in the U.S. as the #MeToo movement and its revelations of sexual misconduct on the part of men in senior positions gathered strength.

Economics and Finance

Economic and financial shocks arose only in regard to trade, and came directly from protectionist actions by a few G7 governments themselves. In April Donald Trump unleashed steel and aluminum tariffs on China and all his G7 partners, giving all of the latter but Japan a temporary exemption until May 1. Further protectionist moves came from the UK and the EU as the dare for the former's departure from the latter's single market approach. Such protectionist blows were offset by the conclusion in early March of the CPTTP, led by Japan and Canada, and by bilateral free trade agreements between and by G7 partners other than the U.S.

Other economic and financial shocks were absent, despite mounting debt in Italy, Japan and the U.S., and financial worries there and elsewhere. Yet such concerns were overwhelmed by stronger, synchronized, shared growth in the global economy, bringing vibrant employment and even rising wages in most of the G7.

Together these forces pushed Charlevoix toward strong success in the security sphere and significant advances on ecology and gender.

Multilateral Organizational Failure

The second cause is the failure of the formal multilateral organizations from the 1940s, poorly equipped to cope with these new shocks and current global needs. Such failure has become pronounced. On December 25, 2017, the UN saw its members cut its budget of $1.2 billion in 2017–18 by $285 million for 2018–19, a reduction of about 24%. The assault was led by the U.S., which has also paralyzed the WTO by refusing to appoint judges to its highest court. Budget cuts have also afflicted the World Food Programme, with more famine and deaths the direct result. Not surprisingly, in 2017 citizens in 25 countries gave the UN, the World Bank and the IMF lower approval ratings than the year before (see Appendix G [download]). The UNSC has not stopped the North Korean nor terrorist threat, nor the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, nor the brutality of Syria's Assad regime.

Predominant Equalizing Capability

The third cause acting as a constraint on performance, is the declining globally predominant and internally equalizing capability of G7 members, giving them both the capability to fill the global gap and an incentive to adjust to one another to share the burden and produce a consensus that all share. In overall capability, measured by gross domestic product at market exchange rates, G7 global predominance declined, as estimated U.S. growth in 2018 at 2.9% trailed that of the world at 3.9% (see Appendix F [download]). External equality also declined, as the largest U.S. member outgrew the smallest Canada at 2.1%.

In the hard power of military security, the G7 has a strong global lead. All G7 countries are finally enjoying rising economic growth and employment. Even if rising interest rates, fiscal deficits, debt, and healthcare and pensions costs for their aging populations could constrain what they do. In the specialized capability of jobs of the future, predominance and equality prevailed (see Appendix F-1 [download]).

G7 soft power also shrunk (see Appendix F-2 [download]). Public views of U.S. positive influence have plunged 24% to 40%, making the U.S. less popular than China at 49% and the UN at 64% (Breene 2017). Also sagging were highly ranked Germany at 67%, France at 59% and the United Kingdom at 57%. Alone at the top, in first place, stood Canada at 81%, the same score as the year before.

Common Principles

Fourth, G7 leaders' devotion to the shared principles of open democracy, individual liberty and social advance could provide a unifying bond, in the face of the mounting threats to these values from outside. But many doubt that Donald Trump share such convictions, as least where a repressive, aggressive Russia is concerned.

Domestic Political Cohesion

Fifth, G7 leaders has limited political cohesion at home, restricting their ability to adjust at the G7 to forge agreements there.

Political Control

Only three leaders have firm control of their executive and legislative branches. In Canada, Trudeau's Liberals have a 14 seat majority government and face a general election in 2019.

In the U.S. Donald Trump's Republicans control both houses of Congress, but face mid-term elections on November 6 that previous polls and by-elections (notably in Pennsylvania in early March) showed could end his control of Congress. In March Trump abruptly fired his foreign minister, Rex Tillerson, just after the head of his National Economic Council, Gary Cohn resigned.

But in Germany Merkel had struggled to assemble a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party (SPD), as both parties had suffered in the general election in September. In Japan Abe governed in coalition with the New Komeito Party to control both legislative chambers. In the UK, May had a faction-ridden feuding, minority government, having lost her majority in the election she had called in the fall. In Italy, the March 4 elections ended the centrist Democratic Party led by Paulo Gentiloni, while the victorious Five Star and North League parties struggled to create a coalition.

Popular Support

Popular support for G7 leaders was soft.


In Canada, the Nanos poll shows that support for Justin Trudeau's Liberals fell from 41% at the start of 2018 to 36% by mid-March, putting the Liberal party only three points ahead of the opposition Conservative party. Other polls had earlier put Trudeau behind the Conservatives. But by April 13 his substantial lead had return, to 41.1% against the Conservatives 29% (see Appendix G [download]).

However, 46% of Canadians, like Trudeau, were found to be open to one another and the world, compared to only 30% who felt economically and culturally insecure (Levitz 2018). On the issues, a Nanos poll on March 7-12 found that "90 per cent said it was important or somewhat important for the government to have a plan to eliminate the federal deficit" (Hannay 2018). Sixty per cent favoured paid leave for new fathers, and 60% opposed higher taxes.

A comprehensive Environics poll on Canadians' views on the world, taken from October 23 to November 26, 2017 revealed strong national unity among Anglophones and Francophones (Environics Institute 2018). It also showed strong support for Canadians' internationally DNVs of environmentalism, multiculturalism, openness (in immigration and trade), antimilitarism (in the form of peacekeeping), globalism (of an Atlantic-centric kind), and international institutionalism of both a multilateral, formal bureaucratic and a plurilateral, informal, summit centred sort (Kirton 2018c).

In regard to the G7, when asked "How important do you believe it is that Canada be actively supportive and involved with [specified international institution]" their replies of "critically important" put the UN first with 57%, NATO second with 52% and the G7 at a close third with 47%. When "important but not critical" was added, the UN still stood first with 88% and NATO stood second with 85%, but the G7 was now virtually tied for second with 84%. The "not very important" responses had the UN at 10%, and NATO and the G& at 9%.

In the U.S., Donald Trump's approval ratings remained at unprecedented lows for new president's entering their second year in office (see Appendix H [download]).

In Japan, by March 17, Abe's support had plunged 9.4 points to 39.3% in a survey taken from March 9 to 12 by Jiji news, due to a scandal that kept his finance minister Taro Aso from attending the G20 finance ministers' meeting in Argentina (Takenaka and Lies 2018). For the first time since October, Abe's support was below those who did not support him.

In Germany, a Civey poll of 11,755 voters taken on March 11-18 found support for the governing Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union in Bavaria at 32% (down 1%), its SPD coalition partner at 17% (−1), the Alternative for Germany at 14% (+1), the Greens at 12% (−1), the Linke at 11% and the Free Democratic Party at 9%. The governing coalition thus had a minority of 49%.

In the UK, however, a YouGov poll on March 26-27 on citizens' preferred prime minister found that Theresa May had 38% against Labour Party opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn at 27%. This was a rise of 2% for May and a drop of 2% for Corbyn from the previous poll on March 5-6.

A Pew Research Center poll conducted across 38 countries found that in the summer of 2017, the issue that generated the greatest concern among global publics was ISIS, which came in first place with about 62%. Then came climate change at 61%, cyber war and the global economy each at 50%, the refugee crisis at under 40% and U.S., Russian and Chinese power each at progressively less (Datawatch 2017).

The Club at the Hub

The sixth propeller of summit success is the informal, personal dynamic within the private G7 club that the leaders cherish as their own. For them, it is often a lonely hearts' club — the only place where they can commiserate with their peers and learn from them how to do a better job. Its magic had worked on Trump on terrorism and trade at Taormina last year. It can again at Charlevoix, especially if the conference hotel and surrounding golf courses are up to the standards Donald Trump expects at his own. It helps that the leaders will be left alone together, far from the madding and maddening crowd. As at Canada's Kananaskis Summit in 2002, the media and protestors will be kept in Quebec City, 150 kilometres away.

[back to top]

References and Other Readings

Amelang, Soren and Benjamin Wehrmann (2018), "Climate and energy in Germany's government coalition draft treaty," Clean Energy Wire, February 2.

Bland, Katrina (2018), Canada's Sixth G7 Summit: Charlevoix, G7 Research Group, January 29.

Breene, Keith (2017), "These countries have the most positive influence on the world," World Economic Forum, July 7.

Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs and iAffairs (2018), 2018 Trudeau Report Card, CanadianForeign Policy Journal, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University and iAffairs, March 5.

Carmichael, Kevin (2018), "G7 meeting shows relationships matter," National Post, March 29.

Collier, Ute (2018), "Commentary: More policy attention is needed for renewable heat," International Energy Agency, January 25.

Datawatch (2017), "Insecure World," Financial Times August 3, p. 1.

Donnan, Shawn (2018), "China set for fewer World Bank loans as part of $13bn US fundraising deal," Financial Times, April 16.

Doyle, Allister (2018), "Warming set to breach Paris accord's toughest limits by mid century: Draft," Reuters, January 11.

Environics Institute (2018), Canada World Survey, Environics Institute for Survey Research, Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History, Canadian International Council, SFU Public Square, March 23.

Fell, Tony (2018), "In Justin Trudeau's Canada, we still can't get anything big done," Globe and Mail, February 24.

Glavin, Terry (2018), "Putin, not gender equality, needs to be the focus of Canada's G7 summit," Financial Post, March 29.

Hannay, Chris (2018), "Canadians want new social benefits but not new taxes or deficits, poll shows," Globe and Mail March 17, p. A7.

Kirby, Alex (2018), "Climate impacts nearly half of U.S. military bases," EcoWatch, February 2.

Kirton, John (2018a), "Strengthening Economic, Energy and Food Security through Canada's G7 and G20 Summits from Kananaskis 2002 to Charlevoix 2018," lecture prepared for the Ranchmen's Club, Calgary, February 7.

Kirton, John (2018b), "G7 Summit Opportunities in 2018," keynote luncheon address to the Converg-x Conference, Calgary, February 8.

Kirton, John (2018c). "Canadians' Strong Support for Canada's National Interests and Destructive National Values," presentation to the Canadian International Council, Toronto, April 16,.

Kirton, John (2018d), French G7 Priorities for 2018-19, G7 Research Group, March 19.

Kirton, John and Ella Kokotsis (2015), The Global Governance of Climate Change: G7, G20 and UN Leadership (Farnham: Ashgate).

Kirton, John and Julia Kulik (2018), "Strengthening regional security through G7/8 sanctions and force," in John J. Kirton and Marina Larionova, eds., Accountability for Effectiveness in Global Governance (New York: Routledge), pp. 127-142.

Levitz, Stephanie (2018), "Fewer than half of Canadians hold an open view of the world, poll on populism finds," Toronto Star, January 22.

Mulroney, David (2018), "Trudeau is delivering the foreign policy Canadians deserve," Globe and Mail February 26.

Robertson, Colin (2018), "Canada should use its G7 meeting to tackle the Putin problem," Globe and Mail March 29.

Percival, Valerie (20118), "On global health, Canada is not 'back'," Globe and Mail, February 21.

Takenaka, Kiyoshi and Elaine Lies (2018), "Abe's support rate falls to 39% as demonstrations continue," Japan Today March 17.

Woo, Andrea and Mike Hager (2018), "Opioids claim more lives than road crashes," Globe and Mail, March 28, p. A1.

[back to top]

G7 Information Centre

Top of Page
This Information System is provided by the University of Toronto Libraries and the G7 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
Please send comments to: g7@utoronto.ca
This page was last updated July 10, 2021.

All contents copyright © 2023. University of Toronto unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.