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Prospects for the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers' Meeting in Liverpool

John Kirton, Director, G7 Research Group
December 9, 2021

From December 10 to 12, 2021, G7 foreign and development ministers will gather in Liverpool, for their second meeting ministers under the United Kingdom's G7 presidency in 2021.

Significance

It is a significant event in several ways.

It is the first time that G7 foreign and development ministers will invite as guests all their colleagues from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This will expand the Indo-Pacific focus that began when they invited India, Australia, Korea and South Africa to their meeting in London on May 5, 2021. As Indonesia is the central member of ASEAN, this will link the G7's work to that of the G20, which Indonesia has already started preparing for its year as host in 2022.

The unusually long, three-day G7 meeting is an important opportunity for the many new G7 foreign ministers to meet one another. They include UK foreign secretary Liz Truss, the host, who has only been in her portfolio for the last 12 weeks (see Appendix A). Japan's foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi was appointed on November 10, 2021. Germany's foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, the co-leader of the Green Party, took office on December 8, 2021, and will host as foreign minister when Germany assumes the G7 presidency on January 1, 2022. Canada foreign minister, Mélanie Joly, was appointed in October 26, 2021. Also relatively new is their colleague US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was appointed in January 2021. Italy's Luigi Di Maio and the European Union's Josep Borell were appointed in 2019, and France's Jean-Yves Le Drian was appointed in 2017.

Gathering in person, just as the new winter wave of COVID-19 and its new Omicron variant take off in G7 members, may be the last chance for such an encounter for G7 ministers in the coming months. The new wave has already led to the cancellation of travel plans for many participants in the initial meeting to prepare Indonesia's G20 summit in 2022, and to the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization. Liverpool will thus allow G7 foreign ministers to hear what their new German colleagues and her government are planning for the G7 in 2022.

Agenda

When the G7 meeting was announced in November, its purpose was identified as building closer economic, technology and security ties globally. The meeting's three priority themes were presented as reinforcing economic resilience post–COVID-19, global health and human rights.

It might surprise some observers that foreign ministers would put the economy first, as this has long been the preserve of the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors, who are regularly at work. It is also seen as the task of the G20, since its leaders chose the G20 as the permanent, primary forum for their international economic cooperation at their Pittsburgh Summit in 2009.

Yet the most recent G7 foreign ministers meeting, held under the UK presidency in London in May, had a similarly broad agenda and accomplishments as a result. It produced 162 commitments, among the most ever since G7 foreign ministers started meeting separately in 1984 (see Appendix B and Appendix C). Moreover, these commitments covered a wide range of subjects, well beyond the traditional security sphere. They were led by health with 27 commitments, democracy with 26, regional security with 24 and human rights with 18. The ministers thus translated the G7's distinctive foundational mission to globally preserve and promote open democracy and human rights into precise, future-oriented, politically obligatory commitments that bound all G7 members. Their commitments included gender equality with 15, development with 12, weapons' non-proliferation with 11, climate change with nine and cyber security with five. On the list, if at the bottom, were macroeconomic policy and infrastructure, with one commitment each.

In Liverpool, G7 ministers will confront several clear and present dangers across most of these subjects. They begin with the two biggest, traditional state-to-stare security threats, from Russia preparing to invade democratic Ukraine and from China menacing democratic Taiwan. Both these permanent, veto members of the United Nations Security Council are also further restrictong their citizens' freedom at home. Then come the two biggest new, non-state security threats, from COVID-19 and from climate change. The latter is the world's only genuinely existential threat, which the 194 members of the UN failed to control at their Glasgow summit from October 31 to November 12. This gives the United Kingdom, which co-chaired the Glasgow Summit with G7 member Italy, another chance to do more before it is too late.

Prospects

At Liverpool, ministers are likely to confront these challenges with a highly ambitious approach, judging by the vision presented by Truss on December 8. She declared Britain to be "the greatest country on earth," a "science and tech superpower," with the world's best diplomats with unique reach, and, in the view of the Henry Jackson Society, "the second most powerful country on the globe." For the G7, which "covers half" of global gross domestic product, she wants its Liverpool meeting to "advance the frontiers of freedom" by building a "Network of Freedom" that covers economic influence, investment, trade and development, science and technology, and security and defence. On security and defence, she highlighted Russia, China, Iran and Afghanistan.

These themes and priorities are highly similar to those Joe Biden chose for his Summit of Democracies, which starts on December 9. Their relevance to the G7 foreign ministers' meeting was specified by a US State Department briefing on December 8. It emphasized the themes of "building back better on global infrastructure, economic recovery, health and climate, while adding Blinken's interest in vaccines, global health security and economic growth in the Indo-Pacific region.

The schedule of the G7 meeting reflects the breadth and ambition of its aims. The schedule for December 11 begins with morning sessions on geopolitical and security issues, followed by a working lunch, then afternoon meetings on economic partnerships, a reception and a dinner. On December 12, meetings will focus on Indo-Pacific issues, then on vaccines and global health security, and a closing lunch.

In all, the stage is set for the Liverpool G7 meeting to make an important contribution to democratic global governance as a whole.

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Appendix A: G7 Foreign Ministers, December 19, 2021

Country

Title

Name

Appointed

United States

Secretary of State

Antony Blinken

January 26, 2021

Japan

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Yoshimasa Hayashi

November 10, 2021

Germany

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Annalena Baerbock

December 8, 2021

France

Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs

Jean-Yves Le Drian

May 17, 2017

United Kingdom

Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs

Liz Truss

September 17, 2021

Italy

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Luigi Di Maio

September 5, 2019

Canada

Minister of Foreign Minister

Mélanie Joly

October 26, 2021

European Union

High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

Josep Borell

December 1, 2019

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Appendix B: G7 Foreign Ministers' Commitments 1993–2019

Summit

Number of commitments

Number of documents

1998 London

62

3

1999 Germany

25

3

2000 Japan

85

2

2001 Italy

32

3

2002 Canada

70

5

2003 France

5

1

2004 United States

8

1

2005 United Kingdom

23

2

2006 Russia

12

1

2007 Germany

38

2

2008 Japan

28

2

2009 Italy

55

3

2010 Canada

33

5

2011 France

39

2

2012 United States

37

1 (including Annex)

2013 United Kingdom

52

2

2014 United States

15

3

2015 Germany

164

4

2016 Japan

115

4

2017 Italy

181

3

2018 Canada

200

7

2019 France

176

6

Total

1,455

65

Note: Identified, categorized and compiled by Brittaney Warren, August 13, 2019.

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Appendix C: G7 Foreign and Development Ministers' Meeting Communiqué, May 5, 2021

Subject

Number of commitments

Percentage of commitments

Health

27

17

Democracy

26

16

Regional security

24

15

Human rights

18

11

Gender

15

9

Development

12

7

Non-proliferation

11

7

Climate change

9

6

Cyber security

5

3

International cooperation

4

2

Maritime security

3

2

East-West relations

2

1

Crime and corruption

2

1

Food and agriculture

2

1

Infrastructure

1

1

Macroeconomics

1

1

Total

162

100%

Note: Percentages rounded up. Identified and coded by Brittaney Warren

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