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G7: Exit globalisation, enter the like-minded and economic security?

Multilateralism & global issues / EPC FLASH ANALYSIS
Georg Riekeles

Date: 22/05/0023
The uninvited powers dominated G7 discussions in Hiroshima: Russia, the former G8 partner now today’s clear and present danger, and China, unmistakably emerging as the more significant, long-term, strategic concern.

Security issues have often figured high on the G7 agenda since the ‘Library Group’ meeting of finance ministers morphed into the G6, then the G7, some 50 years ago. What the group has been particularly known for, however, is its role in attending to globalisation and discussing global challenges in economic terms. Therein also lies its conundrum: since globalisation’s “peak” in the early 2010s, the format has appeared outdated and criticised for its narrow global representation and increasing ineffectualness.
Not anymore: the Hiroshima G7 might be seen, in time, as a turning point in answering what comes after globalisation.

The meeting certainly marked a rekindling of the G7 format with respect to the broader G20, in which China and Russia take part. Faced with today’s dramatic geopolitical shifts and the rise of dragon-bear power politics and their revisionist international stance, the former ‘West’ needs a place to meet and consult. The current US administration is actively deploying a new “free world” slogan meant as a rallying cry for a club of the ‘likeminded’, to which Australia, Korea and Ukraine had also been invited.

The Japanese hosts had also reached out, rather effectively, to those who might be called the ‘middle ground’ countries in today’s international relations (avoiding the rather incongruous ‘global south’, or worse, the counterproductive, ‘hedging countries’). Brazil, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Comoros, representing the African Union, added geopolitical depth to the format and discussions.

Also, on substance, the Hiroshima G7 marked what could be a dramatic inflexion to the globalisation narrative, after which supposedly comes a new paradigm of ‘economic security’ with its emphasis on the need to ‘de-risk’ international relations.

Not all G7 partners have a hard-line approach to China, but they agree on the need to protect themselves against an increasingly hegemonic and, at times, coercive power. As Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said recently in her EPC-MERICS speech on EU-China relations, through the ten years of President Xi Jinping’s rule, there has been a clear push to “make China less dependent on the world and the world more dependent on China”.

This requires striking a new balance between national security and economic interests and creates a strong common imperative to protect critical technologies and supply chains. The question of effectualness, however, remains. As shown by the US Inflation Reduction Act, economic security is complex because countries are both partners and rivals.

Will this new ‘likeminded’ alliance hold and deliver? The first test is the upcoming EU-US Trade and Technology Council on 30-31 May, where the US and Europe must show that they can agree on China and effective means of working together – not against each other.

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