Political Churns Come To The Fore As Italy Hosts G7 Summit

Political Churns Come To The Fore As Italy Hosts G7 Summit

G-7 would like India to align more closely with their attempt to isolate Russia, contain Chinese trade and technological advancement and move on climate control. India is unlikely to abandon access to Russian oil and coal

K C SinghUpdated: Friday, June 14, 2024, 06:24 PM IST
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G7 Summit 2024, Italy | X

The annual G-7 summit of the world’s most advanced economies, except China, is on June 13-15 at an Italian resort overlooking the Adriatic Sea. The host, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, once seen as a far-right oddity, is better entrenched domestically than her six colleagues and even some invitees.

US President Joe Biden trails his Republican opponent Donald Trump just months before the November presidential election. This is despite Trump’s conviction in one case and pending trial in several others. A video emerged of Biden wandering off confusedly in public, requiring Meloni to steer him back. It was not the picture Team Biden wanted projected.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a surprise early poll on July 4, which he is expected to lose to the ascendant Labour Party. French President Emmanuel Macron, after the sterling performance of his rival Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) in the European parliamentary election, also surprisingly dissolved the parliament and ordered fresh polls on June 30 and July 7. With three years of his second and final term remaining, he weighed two outcomes. One, the French having flirted with RN may after sublimated anger vote differently. In fact, socialist and left-of-centre parties are converging to put up a joint fight. Two, even if RN gains control of the parliament and prime minister’s office, it may over the next three years get exposed by poor governance and fiscal indiscipline.

Germany, the biggest European economy, also embarrassed its chancellor Olaf Scholz by tumbling his party’s seats below those of Christian Democrats and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the same European election. The Greens, with a climate change agenda, also performed poorly.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also faces mounting anti-incumbency after eight years in power. A recent poll showed his public approval at 30%, compared to opposition Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre’s 40%. Although the election is still not due till September 2025.

Some of the special invitees also face domestic political challenges. Turkish President Tayib Erdogan had a setback in local elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi entered a third term but after his party lost majority in Parliament, making him dependent on support from allies. A coalition government’s constant search for consensus requires temperamental skills which PM Modi has not so far displayed, in Delhi or Ahmedabad.

What are the issues before these beleaguered leaders? The Ukraine war and ongoing Gaza conflict are unavoidable. China’s economic challenge to the established global order too looms. The US will push for the European Union to ratchet up tariffs on import of Chinese electric vehicles. The presence of the Ukrainian president Volodmyr Zelensky straightaway shifted the focus to him. The US announced a 10-year security pact with Ukraine to address, as President Biden put it, “Ukraine’s credible defense and deterrence capabilities for the long term”. That is a debatable commitment, as Trump — if re-elected — may abandon it. The G-7 also endorsed $50 billion in assistance to Ukraine, to be repaid from interest earned by Russia’s blocked foreign exchange worth €300 billion. Biden summed up the basic message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he should not plan to “wait us out”.

Climate change amelioration continues to elicit broad public support in Europe. Over 12 consecutive months up to last May global average temperature hit a new high. But European decisions like earmarking 4% of arable land for biodiversity face popular resentment. However it is acknowledged that extreme weather events are also negatively affecting the global food supply.

G-7’s share of global GDP has been dropping over the years as the share of China, and even India, has grown. The recent European parliament elections have seen the far-right parties gaining more seats. Italy’s ruling Brothers of Italy party doubled its tally. Nevertheless the centrists still hold control in that forum. While Germany and France see the ascendancy of the far-right parties, in Britain the left-leaning Labour is causing the political upsurge. Alongside this, Donald Trump leading in the US presidential race makes confusion worse confounded.

There are international policy implications of what may appear as domestic political contestation. The far-right parties are hostile to free trade, less supportive of more sanctions against Russia and less hawkish on China. They are also anti-immigrants. The Indian prime minister’s presence at the summit immediately on starting his third term provides an opportunity to assess this evolving scenario.

G-7 would like India to align more closely with their attempt to isolate Russia, contain Chinese trade and technological advancement and move on climate control. India is unlikely to abandon access to Russian oil and coal. This is due to both economic and strategic factors. On the environment issue, G-7’s evangelism has been moderated by distractions like the Ukraine and Israel-Hamas conflict.

Overall this summit is handicapped by the political churn in most major economies, which are democracies, globally.

KC Singh is former secretary, Ministry of External Affairs

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