The G7/G8: where the big powers meet informally

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PARIS, June 9, 2018 (AFP) – The G7, which ends a two-day summit in Canada
on Saturday against a background of tensions, is an informal grouping of
major powers created in 1975.

Originally established as a vehicle for leading industrialised democracies
to discuss the global economy, it has expanded its scope to issues such as
peace, the environment and terrorism.

Often the atmosphere between the partners becomes tense in the run-up to
the annual summit, held in the country which holds the rotating presidency.

However G7 summits traditionally end with a face-saving joint declaration
regarding the most important outcomes of the meeting.

This year’s summit promises to be fractious due to new import tariffs
imposed by US President Donald Trump on his partners.

He has also called for the reintegration of Russia, a member of the group
between 1998 and 2014 and which was thrown out after it annexed Ukraine’s
Crimea peninsula.

– Origins in global economy –

The meetings date back to Rambouillet in France in 1975, in the wake of
the first oil shock, during which oil prices soared.

Six countries — Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United
States — took part in this first “G6”, and were joined a year later by
Canada making the “G7”.

The initiative came from French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing who
wanted to elevate to the top level meetings already held by the countries’
finance ministers to tackle burning economic issues.

– From G7 to G8 –

During the 1980s, tensions between the East and West during the Cold War
gave a more political slant to the meetings.

The Williamsburg summit in 1983 adopted, for the first time, a declaration
on security in Europe.

The text of support for the policies of US president Ronald Reagan towards
Moscow was adopted despite the reservations of French president Francois
Mitterrand.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991 proved a gamechanger.

Russia, which attended the summit as a guest in 1992, was in 1998 allowed
for the first time to attend all summit meetings. The grouping was officially
renamed the “G8”.

– Exclusive club criticised –

From 1999, during a period of successive financial crises, the G8 was
criticised for being an exclusive club.

The rich powers therefore also started meeting with emerging countries in
the new “G20” grouping, in an attempt to resolve or avoid these crises.

In 2001 the G8’s summit in Genoa, Italy, was overshadowed by violent
demonstrations by anti-globalisation protesters which left one person dead.

The protesters challenged the usefulness and legitimacy of the G8 and
called for the cancellation of the poorest countries’ debts.

Protests dogged other G8 summits, which from then on were held under tight
security.

– Putin and Trump –

In 2014 Vladimir Putin’s Russia was suspended from the G8 after it annexed
Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and sanctions were imposed on Moscow. The G8
summit planned for that year in Russia was cancelled and the G8 reverted to
being the G7.

In 2017 the G7’s unity was shattered on the issue of climate change during
its first summit with Trump in Sicily. Several days later he decided to pull
out of the Paris climate accord.

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