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From Agenda Setting to Achievement at the G7's Ise-Shima Summit

John Kirton, Director, G7 Research Group
April 1, 2016

On March 31, 2016, Japan announced the formal agenda for the G7's Ise-Shima Summit that it will host on May 26-27. It consisted of seven general topics: economy and trade, foreign policy, climate change and energy, development, quality infrastructure investment, health and women. Three questions thus arise. First, what will these categories actually contain when the summit starts? Second, how does this agenda compare with the G7/8 summit agenda in the past? Third, how well will any agreements made at Ise-Shima on these subjects be implemented, given the G7/8 compliance record in the past. This analysis addresses the first question.

Japan's announced agenda offers a full-strength, comprehensive approach to key global issues, embracing the domains of economics, sustainable development and security. The economy and trade category identifies the issues of growth, oil prices and trade. It will no doubt focus on the central issue of the need for coordinated fiscal stimulus and how to produce such stimulus, and it will do so in conjunction with sound monetary policy management and the strengthened financial regulation (including terrorist finance and tax fairness) on which market confidence depends. On oil prices, leaders will ask — and probably answer — the question of how much "low for long" there will be. Will low prices over a long period help the United States, Japan and Europe more than they harm Canada, as the G7's only energy superpower? Will they induce Russia to return to a more responsible approach toward Ukraine? The trade discussion will embrace real multilateral and plurilateral liberalization, including the Transpacific Partnership, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and also why it is important for the United Kingdom to remain a full member of a reformed European Union. Many observers will wonder if the new digital economy in the fourth industrial revolution will be added to the list.

Foreign policy features the four listed subjects of terrorism, the Middle East, Ukraine and North Korea. It is a good list. One assumes it will expand to include the South China Sea, on which the German-hosted Schloss Elmau Summit issued a strong statement last year. Another extension could be nuclear non-proliferation, building on the advances of the Nuclear Safety Summit that U.S. president Barack Obama hosted on March 31-April 1 and the G7 foreign ministers' meeting on April 10-11 to be held in highly symbolic Hiroshima just before the G7 summit starts in May.

Climate change and energy properly feature the issue of implementing the United Nations Paris Agreement from December, as well as climate finance and energy security. As the Paris commitments are not nearly enough to meet UN's own targets, and as leaders will not meet again at a UN climate summit for several years, it is up to the G7 leaders to implement and improve them, inspired by the Japanese-hosted 1979 G7 Tokyo Summit whose leaders invented the global governance of climate change. Urgently needed implementation requires more money fast, and once again the G7 will be expected to lead by adding more, in part to mobilize more from the G20 leaders' meeting in nearby Hangzhou at the beginning of September. Energy security should include G7-wide agreements to phase out all fossil fuel subsidies, as all members agreed to do at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in 2009, as well as end coal-fired electricity generation following Canada and Britain's lead, cut methane as the United States and Canada have agreed to do, and aim to decarbonize the global economy completely by 2050 rather than at the century's end.

Development focuses on implementing the UN's 17 new Sustainable Development Goals and Africa. Here the first task is for G7 members to implement those commitments that have been carried over from the old, still unreached Millennium Development Goals, above all on maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH), which was the centrepiece achievement at the G8's Muskoka Summit in 2010. On quality infrastructure investment, the big question is what the G7 can add to this crowded field, especially to catalyze and guide the G20 summit, which has owned the issue in recent years.

The specified health agenda consists of emergency response, full life-cycle services, MNCH, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and aging, all in support of the ideal of universal health care. This is the most impressive and innovative agenda overall. Emergency response is required in a world where Ebola is not yet dead and Zika is soaring and spreading fast. NCDs are a brand-new, badly overdue addition to the G7 agenda, given that cancer, heart and stroke, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease are the number-one killers of human life — and of balanced budget prospects — in all G7 members and all but one of the G20 ones. Here the G7 will be acting in direct support of the UN's SDG 3 and its dedicated summits on NCDs in 2011 and 2014. There should be space for other key health issues identified earlier by Japan, including anti-microbial resistance and neglected tropical diseases.

Under the category of women, Japan innovatively identified the sole issue of improving female education in natural sciences and technology, an initiative where German chancellor Angela Merkel stands as the ultimate G7 role model. There should be space on the agenda to include the broader array of gender issues central to Japan and recent G7 summits, including women in the workplace, women in conflict and the gender dimension of climate change.

In all, Japan's announced agenda for its G7 Ise-Shima Summit is a promising platform on which even more ambition and innovation can be built.

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John KirtonJohn J. Kirton, is director of the G7 and G8 Research Group, and co-director of the G20 Research Group, the Global Health Diplomacy Program and the BRICS Research Group. He is also a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at China's Renmin University. A professor of political science, he teaches global governance and international relations and Canadian foreign policy. He has advised the Canadian and Russian governments, the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization on G7/8 and G20 participation and summitry, international trade and sustainable development, and has written widely on G7/8 and G20 summitry. Kirton is the author of many chapters and articles on the G7, G8 and G20. His most recent books include G20 Governance for a Globalized World (Ashgate, 2012) and (with Ella Kokotsis), The Global Governance of Climate Change: G7, G20 and UN Leadership (Ashgate, 2015), as well as The G8-G20 Relationship in Global Governance, co-edited with Marina Larionova (Ashgate, 2015). Kirton is also co-editor of several publications on the G8, the G20 and the BRICS published by Newsdesk Media, including G20 Turkey: The Antalya Summit 2015 and G7 Germany: The Schloss Elmau Summit 2015.

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