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The importance of the G7 annual summit about to take place in France this weekend is often missed. Initially founded as an informal meeting to address the oil crisis of 1973, the G7 (with members Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the US) encouraged non-communist economic and political coordination during the Cold War. Today though, the group remains as ideologically adrift as the domestic politics of its constituent democracies.
Faced with a variety of international threats and opportunities—including new ones such as money laundering, large-scale trade with non-democracies, and emerging global cryptocurrency markets — the G7 meetings today are little more than extravagant photo-ops for leaders and other elites. Despite the rising tide of authoritarian corruption, G7 leaders and their governments have yet to put aside their personal and petty grievances and get back to the business of freedom. The Group’s failure to decisively act risks squandering opportunities for worldwide gains in individual liberty.
The anti-globalist protesters that flock to G7 meetings will tell you that the group is the very symbol of rising economic inequality (a theme also mentioned in France’s — the host country’s — list of important summit discussion goals) and not a suitable forum to discuss the world’s inequities. It is true that, together, the G7 countries represent roughly 40% of global GDP but just 10% of the world’s population. But what the various commentaries do not mention is that only the G7 can address the resurgence of authoritarianism stemming from China and Russia.
To protect and strengthen European, American, and Japanese markets, G7 leaders should coordinate principled economic policies, particularly in regards to a unified statement on cryptocurrencies and misinvoicing in international trade.
The G7 must remain for established capitalist democracies only, and it ought to forcefully state this. Implicitly, it is, but things such as quietly denied rumors of a French invitation to the meeting for Iran’s President Rouhani send dangerous mixed messages. A clear rededication to first principles among G7 countries would create a baseline for more aggressively defending individual rights while promoting the technologies and trade practices that fuel prosperity, innovation, and democratic capitalism in the world’s first truly global economy. Mutual evaluations, or peer-reviews among members regarding shared concerns, could get the ball rolling in the right direction again.
Many in DC are willing to give up on the G7, saying that the larger G20 (which includes 19 countries ranging from China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia to Canada, the US and the European Union) is a better starting point, but they are wrong. Yes, the G20 is far more representative of the world in that its membership accounts for about 85% of global GDP and 65% of the global population, but there is a catch. Numbers aside, what qualitatively separates the two gatherings is that the G20 includes non-democracies—namely Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia, countries where freedom fundamentally threatens the very survival of an autocrat.
The G20 does bring large developing democracies to the table — such as India, Brazil, and Indonesia. It also brings in Australia and other more or less established democracies — such as South Korea, South Africa, and Mexico. But the distinguishing point when comparing the G7 to the G20 is that while the G20 is better equipped to discuss certain global problems, such as climate change, it does not deal in freedom.
The threat of authoritarian corruption is real. It is alive, well, and expanding — using the global, free-market model that the G7’s members helped create. The world’s dictators and free people around the globe will be tuned in to the events this weekend. Let’s hope the G7 leaders remember what they should be fighting for and against.
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