What to Know About the G7 Summit - The World News

What to Know About the G7 Summit

Every year, as the leaders of the world’s wealthiest large democracies gather for a summit, they face the same question: What exactly is the summit for, and why does the group matter?

The heads of the Group of 7 nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — start their annual summit on Thursday at a luxury hotel in Puglia on the southern Italian coast, overlooking the Adriatic Sea. The wars in Ukraine and Gaza and the threats posed by China’s economic rise are high on the agenda.

The leaders, along with representatives of the European Union and selected guests, meet to discuss economic issues and major international policies. This year the summit’s host, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of Italy, has also invited other top names including Pope Francis and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India.

Whatever the leaders’ disagreements on the issues, one feature of the summits tends to be a shared overall outlook. Their countries are major trading partners, and even if their share of global trade has declined, they account for about half of the world economy. They also share broadly similar views on trade, security and human rights, giving them enormous influence when they act in concert.

A recent example of that common purpose is the war in Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose defense against the Russian invasion of his country has been a rallying point for the G7, is another guest this year. Leaders at the summit are expected to announce fresh sanctions on Moscow.

By the same token, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is one of the group’s most notable absentees. Russia was a member of the group from 1997 until it was excluded in 2014, the year that its forces entered eastern Ukraine and seized Crimea.

The group’s origins go back to the 1973 oil crisis. It grew out of an informal gathering of finance ministers from Britain, France, Japan, the United States and what was then West Germany — initially known as the Big Five — as they tried to agree on a way forward.

Since then, the group and its added members have met dozens of times to work on major issues that affect the international economy, security, trade, equality and climate change. In 2015, the summit paved the way for the Paris agreement to limit global emissions, which was adopted later that year.

The summits are often defined by the most pressing issues of the day: The Sept. 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, the financial crisis of 2008 and the coronavirus pandemic that began in 2019 have all dominated the meetings.

They are also a showcase for cultural diplomacy, as each year’s host country offers delicacies to represent the best of a nation’s cuisine and chooses locations to maximize the leaders’ photogenic potential.

To cite three very different examples, last year’s summit was held in Hiroshima, Japan. In 1982, President Francois Mitterrand of France selected Versailles, and in 1990, President George H.W. Bush chose Houston.

For all the aura of broad-shouldered diplomacy at the summit, each leader has an eye on domestic politics as well. A leader fresh from an election victory can sometimes arrive with a swagger. For a leader about to face an angry electorate, the reverse can be true. Several of the leaders who are arriving in Italy this week are in the latter category.

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