What Is the G7 Summit? Its Members and Summaries of Meetings
What Happens When the World's 7 Top Leaders Meet
The G7 Summit is the annual meeting of the Group of 7 leaders. It's hosted by the G7 President for that year. The Summit doesn't have any legal or political authority. However, when these eight world leaders agree on something, it has the power to shift the direction of global economic growth.
G7 Member Countries and Other Attendees
Its first summit was held at Rambouillet, France, in 1975. At that time it was the G6. Canada joined in 1976, making it the G7. In 1997, Russia joined, making it the G8.
In 2013, the G8 became the G7. That's because Russia invaded Crimea. The other G8 members excluded Russia as part of sanctions against it. For more, see 3 Ways Ukraine's Crisis Affects You.
Other important global leaders are invited, including representatives of the European Union, China, India, Mexico, and Brazil. The leaders of important international organizations are also invited, including the IMF, World Bank, and United Nations.
How the G7 Lost Power
In 2008, a subtle shift of power occurred. While the G8 talked about food inflation, and all kinds of other admittedly important world issues, they completely missed the 2008 global financial crisis. As a result, it signaled the end of the old world order and the beginning of a new one
The meeting was held in July, while Fannie and Freddie were going bankrupt, and after bank-lending LIBOR rates went haywire, and the Fed held its first emergency meeting in 30 years to rescue investment bank, Bear Stearns. In other words, there were plenty of clues that these world leaders needed to do something fast!
Instead, the G-20 stepped in at their summit and addressed the root of the problem. They requested the U.S. to regulate its financial markets more. The U.S. refused, allowing unregulated credit default swaps and other derivatives to plunge the world into financial crisis and recession.
After that, it became apparent that the G20's emerging market countries, which had largely escaped the crisis, were necessary partners of any global initiative. And the G20 Summit superseded the G8 as the world's most important meeting of all global leaders.
Italy hosted the 2017 Summit at Taormina on May 26-27. President Trump agreed to back a pledge against protectionism. He refused to endorse the climate change accord. Members agreed to further sanction Russia if it intervened again in Ukraine. President Issoufou of Niger reminded leaders of the need for further economic development in Africa to stop the flow of migrants. He also asked for intervention to end the crisis in Libya. It is the transit point for migrants heading to Europe.
Japan hosted the 2016 Summit at Ise-Shima on May 26-28, 2016. The leaders promised to support free trade agreements, including the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
They agreed to improve infrastructure within their own and other countries. The group established a new cyber-terrorism working group to enhance cooperation. It promised to help stabilize the Middle East to reduce the flow of refugees into Europe. The leaders promised to fight global warming by entering in force the Paris Agreement (Source: "G7 Ise-Shima Summit," Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan. "Japan Hosts 47th Annual G7 Summit Meeting," Businesswire, May 28, 2016.)
Germany hosted the 2015 Summit at Elmau Castle on June 8, 2015. The G7 announced a plan to phase out all fossil fuels worldwide by 2100. It neglected to create a unified plan to attack ISIS. It also left the Greek debt crisis to the EU and IMF to resolve. (Source: "Here are 5 Reasons the G7 Summit Was a Disappointment," TIME, June 12, 2015)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin was supposed to host the G8 in Sochi on June 14-15. Instead, the G7 canceled the meeting. It held an emergency summit in Brussels, Netherlands, on June 7-8. It continued economic sanctions against Russia and gave $5 billion in aid to Ukraine. It pledged to provide national emission reduction plans. It unveiled its plan to reduce emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. It committed further support to the World Health Organization's efforts to reduce infectious diseases like Ebola and Tuberculosis. (Source: The 2014 G-7 Summit, The White House)
The 2013 Summit was held on November 17-18 at Lough Erne, Enniskillen in Northern Ireland. It was hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The leaders agreed to:
- Hold a conference to reach a political solution to the Syrian conflict. (The G8 tried to overcome Russia's resistance to intervening in Syria, its ally.)
- Work together to find tax evaders.
- Support the TTIP. Negotiations begin following the Summit. Support the EU/Japan and the EU/Canada trade agreements.
- Stamp out ransom payments to terrorists. Nearly $70 million has been paid to free hostages during the past three years, at an average $2.5 million per captive. (Source: UK Prime Minister's Office, G8 Leaders' Remarks, June 18, 2013. "Cameron's Plea to Stop Paying Ransom," Belfast Telegraph, June 17, 2013.)
President Obama hosted the 2012 Summit on May 18-19, 2012, at Camp David in Frederick, MD. The focus was on the global threat of the EU crisis, and G8 leaders agreed that Greece is kept in the Eurozone. As a result, the EU shifted from austerity measures to promoting growth. The leaders agreed on a host of wide-ranging issues, including:
- Ensuring the safety of the world's energy supply, support alternative sources, and reduce climate pollutants (methane, black carbon, and hydrofluorocarbons).
- Improve food security in Africa with the New Alliance, which will lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next decade.
- Contribute $16 billion annually through 2017 to address Afghanistan’s debt.
- Support Arab countries in transition with the Deauville Partnership. (Source: U.S. State Department, Final Update on the U.S. G-8 Presidency, December 31, 2012)
The 2011 Summit was hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy at Deauville, France on May 26-27. They responded to the Arab Spring uprisings by creating the Deauville Partnership to promote political and economic reform in these countries. They created the first-ever declaration on human rights, democracy and sustainable development for Africa. In response to Japan's nuclear disaster, the leaders agreed to stress test their nuclear plants and review international safety standards. (Source: European Commission, G8 France 2012)
On June 25-26, 2010, the G8 Summit was held in Huntsville, Ontario, and was hosted by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. At that meeting, the G8 committed an additional $5 billion to the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health. They focused on responding to the threats from nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea, and on encouraging stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Source: Prime Minister of Canada, Statement on the Closing of the 2010 G8 Summit, June 26, 2010)
Controversial Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi hosted the July 8-10 Summit in L'Aquila, Italy. The primary focus of the conference was an agreement to continue the ongoing efforts to contain the global financial crisis. This conference included many members of the G20, who had not seen the same level of economic destruction. However, members also agreed to a host of wide-ranging topics. These included: efforts to reduce climate change, recommit to supporting African countries, spend $20 billion over the next three years to boost farming in rural areas, condemned Iran's nuclear program, supported a reduction of nuclear arms in the U.S. and Russia, and supported the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. (Source: Chair's Summary L’Aquila, 10 July 2009)
This critical conference was held in Tokyo, Japan from July 7-9 2008. Hosted by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, the leaders still promoted optimistic views about the global economy while it crumbled around them. In fact, they were more concerned about inflation, a result of record-high oil, gas and food prices. They also held hopes that the WTO Doha Round of negotiations would be successful. The leaders stated a goal of 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050, to reverse global warming. Like the other summits, leaders supported the reduction of poverty in Africa and expressed concern over hot spots like North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, and Israel, as well as Sudan, Myanmar and Zimbabwe. For more detail, see Summary of the Hokkaido Tokyo Summit.
Unfortunately, the G-8 missed a critical opportunity to avert the 2008 global economic recession. They refused to agree to a code of conduct for hedge funds, which are located primarily in the U.S. and the UK. They recognized it was needed, but didn't have the political will to follow-through.
Instead, Chancellor Merkel agreed to meet with these hedge funds to convince them of the wisdom in establishing a self-regulating code of conduct. As we now know, her efforts were not enough to reduce the global risks that unregulated hedge funds created.
In 2007, German Chancellor and then-EU President Angela Merkel was Chair of the G8 Summit. She brokered a historic climate change agreement that included getting the U.S. to agree that its climate change policy is under the auspices of the UN. Until then, the U.S. resisted subjugating its actions to UN policy. Merkel got the U.S. to agree to “seriously consider” cutting greenhouse gas emission in half by 2050. Chancellor Merkel’s leadership on this issue seemed to indicate that the EU was becoming more of a global leader than the U.S. This would have represented a significant change from the post-WWII Marshall plan era.
What It Means to You
Sadly, the summits mean very little to you. That's because the summits are a missed opportunity for the leaders of the world's developed countries to accomplish something and solve serious global problems. Instead, they issue general proclamations.
Many feel that the G-7 no longer represents the true leaders in global economic power. In 2008, then EU President and French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with EU Commissioner Manuel Barroso and called for the inclusion of China, India and Brazil in G-8 membership. So far, this request has been ignored. For this reason, the G20 has become a more important international body than the G8.