Charlevoix, Quebec—Caprice pervaded the 2018 G7 Summit. The alliance’s historical multilateralism was turned on its head as the world’s most industrialized nations—the United States, Canada, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Japan and Italy—convened in Charlevoix, Quebec on June 8 and 9 to coordinate economic, security, social and environmental policies. As Canada took to the G7 helm to host the summit and set its agenda—prioritizing gender equality, clean energy and economic growth—the summit’s conclusion did not satiate preceding hopes for ally cooperation. Preceding Summit Goals and Challenges Canada set forth progressive themes ahead of this year’s summit. The five goals to invest in growth that works for everyone; prepare for the jobs of the future; advance gender equality and women’s empowerment; work together on climate change, oceans and clean energy; and build a more peaceful and secure world were the summit’s priorities. Prime Minister Trudeau highlighted the role of women in achieving the goals, noting that female empowerment can overcome social inequalities and chronic weak economic growth. Going into the summit, ally harmony seemed unlikely. The United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and Iranian Nuclear Deal, in addition to more recent increases in steel and aluminum tariffs, served to antagonize the U.S. against other G7 countries. Such American administrative actions brought trade tariffs, security in the Middle East and environmental protections to the forefront of summit discussions. Reports of President Trump’s reluctance to attend the G7 summit due to it distracting from North Korean preparations also contributed to an anticipated cold reception between the president and other Group of Seven leaders. Such preceding factors set a tone of dissonance in the summit’s proceedings, but made achieving summit multilateralism and problem solving more important than ever. G7 Disputes and Proceedings As leaders set to drafting the Charlevoix G7 Summit Communique, disagreements beleaguered negotiations. One large feud related to President Trump stating, while en route to the summit, that Russia should be reinstated into the G7. This was met by backlash by the other leaders as they emphasized Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in 2014 when annexing Crimea. Animosity over U.S. steel and aluminum tariff increases and accompanying talks of other G7 countries implementing equivalent and retaliatory trade barriers largely strained ally relations. Other discrepancies between member nations included Japan and the United States not agreeing to the plastics charter and Canada and the U.S. disputing over inclusion of a sunset clause within NAFTA. Communique Content and Accomplishments Although the summit experienced discord, the communique outlines impactful environmental and educational investments. In his concluding news conference, Prime Minister Trudeau highlighted how Canada, the European Union, Germany, Japan, the U.K., France and the World Bank agreed to invest $3.8 billion in quality education for women and girls that live in crisis and conflict-affected areas—“the single largest investment of its kind.” As female empowerment was a large summit focus, G7 nations that endorsed the communique additionally welcomed investments by their development financial institutions to enhance women’s economic participation, noticing that entire communities benefit through such funding. In terms of ecological priorities, five of the G7 member states agreed to a plastics charter to eradicate plastic pollution. These countries also upheld the Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans and Resilient Coastal Communities, which intends to help G7 countries, developing nations and island states face the changing climate and expand renewable energy infrastructure. Members of the Paris Climate Agreement additionally reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement. The communique also highlights preparing workers and nations for the economic future. Innovation presents new challenges and opportunities as it changes lives and jobs. The summit’s leaders prioritized life-long learning to ensure that “the next job is a better job” and emphasized new ways to measure economic growth. Recognizing flaws in the current system, the communique underscores the need to develop proper tools to monitor economic progress moving forward. A Trump-Trudeau Showdown The most controversial aspect of the Charlevoix G7 Summit was its aftermath. Although leaders and officials stated they exceeded expectations at the summit in endeavoring to solve shared challenges despite trade controversy, such statements were qualified by the U.S. rejecting the communique following the summit’s close. Although all seven nations had signed the communique initially, President Trump tweeted his shift to not endorse the communique in response to Prime Minister Trudeau stating that U.S. tariffs are insulting to Canadians and that Canada will move forward with retaliatory tariffs. The Canadian Prime Minister’s Office responded that "The Prime Minister said nothing he [hadn't] said before—both in public, and in private conversations with the President." Larry Kudlow, Director of the United States National Economic Council, asserted that Prime Minister Trudeau “stabbed [the U.S.] in the back” and that President Trump was “not going to permit any show of weakness on the trip to negotiate with North Korea.” An Era of Capricious Diplomacy The Charlevoix Summit revealed that tariffs pit allies against each other. What was intended to be an occasion to alleviate trade disputes exacerbated them. What was intended to be a venue to solve problems created more problems. Ultimately, the Charlevoix Summit witnessed a new era of capricious diplomacy in which the nature of long standing and historical alliances change course at a moment’s notice. But as more and more international interactions simulate this year’s G7 Summit, such interplays will no longer be considered “capricious,” but instead “common.” The future will determine whether capricious diplomacy becomes the new diplomatic standard.
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