Written by Ishita Thakur
Fifth Year, BBA. LLB. Symbiosis Law School, Noida
Disclaimer: Please note that the views expressed below represent the opinions of the article's author. The following does not necessarily represent the views of Law & Order.
The President of the United States, Donald Trump recently referred to the current format of the Group of Seven (G7) as ‘a very outdated group of countries’ and expressed his desire to invite Russia, India, Australia, and South Korea into this alliance of powerful economies. With respect to Russia, Trump remarked that it would be ‘common sense’ to include the former Soviet nation to the Group of Seven. Russia had been a part of what was previously known as Group of Eight (G8), till 2014, before its annexation of Crimea, which led to its exclusion from the G8 by other member countries. Trump had previously signified his interest in bringing Russia back into the G7 during the Summit in 2018.
In 2019, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi was invited to the G7 Summit by French President Emanuel Macron. In fact, India has been invited consistently to G7 summits on multiple occasions prior to 2019. Although India is a developing nation unlike other countries in the G7, it has had better relations with the G7 countries as compared to Russia.
While Trump’s inclination to include these countries is a start, this article makes an attempt to explore two major questions –– what is the plausibility of such a prospect and what opportunity does this hold for such countries?
History of G7
In 1975, economically powerful countries like the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom formed the Group of Six to deal with issues that a capitalist economy faced and other matters of global significance. Canada joined within the next few years whereas Russia joined a few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The inclusion of Russia in 1997 to this intergovernmental political forum was symbolic of the unity between the major powers of the East and the West. The Soviet Union had maintained a contentious relationship with the West, but the inclusion of Russia into the G7 meant that the greatest powers in the world were willing to set aside their historical differences to discuss and resolve issues that affected them all.
The G7 forum, over the years, has gathered to discuss and exchange ideas about global issues. The forum since then has enabled countries to reach consensus on issues such as tackling AIDS and other diseases, implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016. The Group is an informal alliance and no collective decision is binding on any member.
Exclusion of Russia
Russia’s membership was suspended by the Group in 2014 after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine - an act that was seen as a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The exclusion took place when the G8 (not including Russia) decided to boycott the 2014 meeting in Sochi, Russia. Due to Russia's outrageous violation of the Hague Declaration in its actions towards Ukraine, G8 members felt the need to disengage from Russia.
The Hague Declaration states, “International law prohibits the acquisition of part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force” (European Council, The Hague, 2014) and thus the seven countries strongly condemned Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea in contravention of international law and specific international obligations.
The countries imposed a number of sanctions against Russia, following which they decided to relocate the meeting to Brussels for that year, starting a new chapter for the G7.
Leadership Dynamic of G7
Throughout his tenure, French President Emmanuel Macron has become increasingly active on the world stage. He’s been consistently involved with the European Union (EU), even spearheading a diplomatic initiative with Iran to enter nuclear talks, and hosting the G7 summit in 2019. (Nossiter, 2019)
Despite emerging as a strong leader in the G7, Macron has had contentious relations with Trump in the past. Trump had faced opposition from other G7 members in the last two summits (2019 and 2018) for a number of his decisions, such as pulling out from trade deals, the Iran nuclear deal as well as the Paris Climate Agreement of 2016. Trump’s harsh trade policies and refusal to lower import duties, even for other G7 nations like France and Canada has garnered some level of displeasure towards him from other leaders at the G7.
Liberally-inclined leaders Trudeau and Macron have been allies and have supported each other in their stand against Trump’s controversial decisions. There was even talk of a G6+1 excluding Washington in 2018 when Emmanuel Macron had called on other members of the G7 to confront Donald Trump’s trade policies. This proposal was supported by Canada, as it also expressed disapproval of America’s imposition of unfair tariffs.
Macron’s latest loss of majority in the French Parliament has left his own political career in an uncertain position. Therefore, the leadership dynamic of G7 that had been witnessing Macron’s emergence as a strong resisting force against Trump is in question, yet again.
The Prospects of India’s Membership to an extended G7
The Ministry of External Affairs reported that during the telephonic conversation, President Trump “conveyed his desire to expand the ambit of the grouping beyond the existing membership to include other important countries, including India.” (Basu, 2020) Critics argue that by promoting the inclusion of these countries in the G7, Trump has self-interested motives to form a front against China. The Russian Foreign Ministry, however, stated on the subject of this inclusion that it’s nearly impossible to implement serious global initiatives without China. (TASS: Russian News Agency, 2020)
Despite Trump’s desire to include India, Russia, Australia, and South Korea in the Alliance, what will make the prospect a reality is the achievement of consensus between all existing G7 members in favor of this inclusion. The inclination of Trump to this inclusion, which might be fuelled by his trade war with China, will nevertheless have to garner the support of other members. However, keeping in mind the high number of internal disagreements in the G7, it's hard to imagine that such consensus among the members can be achieved in the near future.
The inclusion of Russia, India, South Korea, and Australia will definitely diversify the current structure of the G7. India’s inclusion, specifically, to the group of the most powerful economies, may raise the confidence of developing countries like South Africa and Brazil that were late entrants into this pool of industrialized, high performing economies. There are no G7 members from Africa, Latin America, or the other regions in the Global South even though G7 countries face a strong challenge from these fast-growing emerging economies. The inclusion of India in the league with the most powerful economies will mean that it will be able to include the interests of developing countries in the G7 dialogue.
On the other hand, the inclusion of Russia, owing to its history of refusal to respect International Law and order, is still an arguable subject. Trump supported the inclusion by saying that a lot being discussed in the Group actually concerns Russia and therefore it is more appropriate to include it in the discussion. Countries such as Canada and the UK have already expressed opposition to Russia’s re-inclusion. (Choudhary, 2020)
The leadership dynamic of the G7 will significantly affect the fate of Russia’s inclusion.
Whether Trump will be re-elected in the elections of November 2020 and whether he will continue to be in a position to reassert his plans for the G7 is debatable. Macron’s loss of majority in the French Parliament will also affect France’s stance on the inclusion of these nations. As of now, these countries have bigger fish to fry than deciding what the design of G7 should be, such as responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Basu, Nayanima (2020, June 4) India at G7: Trump’s invite to Modi a start but membership a long way away. The Print. https://theprint.in/diplomacy/india-at-g7-trumps-invite-to-modi-a-start-but-membership-a-long-way-away/435261/
Choudhary, Dipanjan Roy (2020, May 31) Donald Trump postpones the G7 summit, wants India, others to join group, The Economic Times. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/trump-calls-for-delay-in-group-of-7-meeting-seeks-expansion/articleshow/76114855.cms?from=mdr
Nossiter, Adam (2019, August 27) How Emmanuel Macron Positioned Himself as Star of the G7 Show. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/27/world/europe/g7-macron-trump-france.html
Moscow says expanding G7 summit ‘step in the right direction’ but China’s presence needed. TASS: Russian News Agency. (2020, June 2) https://tass.com/politics/1163107
G7 The Hague Declaration. European Council, The Hague. (2014, March 24) https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/23858/141855.pdf