(Bloomberg) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to create the perfect picture of Britain’s Group of Seven summit chairing a united global effort to fight Covid and climate change, but the optics of these rallies have always been unpredictable. These events are all about these lenses – tracing who is ascending and who is reversing. Canada made history in 2018 when tired Angela Merkel leaned forward, arms crossed on a table, alongside other leaders facing a grumpy Donald Trump to convince him to sign a press release which he subsequently tore up anyway.
The Italy of the year before was all about the budding bromance of Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau, both fresh on the stage and with the wind in their sails. France in 2019 marked the debut of Johnson, who broke the Brexit ice with allies with a nice dose of slapstick. Power dynamics can change and reveal a lot about the geopolitics at play.
It has been two years since they all got to meet in person. The pandemic has changed everything and this year, off England’s rugged coasts jutting out into the Atlantic, a new set of characters will join the cast as the oldest of the group makes her final appearance.
Here is your guide on who is coming and what they want.
Joe Biden: The Rookie (Experienced)
He’s not Trump, and for some that may be enough. President Joe Biden is also a familiar figure, having been Barack Obama’s “veep”. But this is his first summit as president as the United States reconsiders its role as the world’s policeman. Biden arrives with the clear message that “America is Back,” but also aspects of “America First” are here to stay. At home his vaccination campaign has skyrocketed, but abroad there is anger over the build-up of gunfire – a headwind he has sought to quell by announcing a plan to the eve of the summit to donate 500 million doses. He wants an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus and he’s relying on it now.
His efforts to raise corporate taxes have also been approved and although the UK is the host country for the annual global climate talks later this year, Biden has already hosted his own summit on the subject. One of the first tests will be the support he can get from his allies to form a united front against China, on the verge of becoming the world’s largest economy in a much shorter time frame (in part because of the pandemic). Another will be how it responds to a more assertive approach by European leaders, who may be skeptical about its ability to deliver on its long-term promises. Biden will also look forward to meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16, possibly the defining step in his overseas getaway. Before that, he might want to choose Merkel’s brain, the closest thing these makers to a Kremlinologist.
What to expect: Biden is a welcome change, that’s for sure, but Europeans aren’t ready to fully trust him yet.
Boris Johnson: the Brexit man
The British leader has chosen a seaside resort where he can entertain his counterparts in the style of a traditional English seaside holiday. If only bad weather hadn’t thwarted the best-prepared plans for tea with Biden in an unusual castle on a tidal island. It doesn’t matter. Johnson will show his sunny outlook as he tries to sell his Brexit vision with Britain as a global nation trading across the globe. Behind the good-naturedness, there is serious work to be done. His team is proud of a landmark global tax deal struck in London and is aiming for efforts to help immunize the entire world by the end of next year.
On climate change, Johnson will be relentless. He is hosting the UN climate summit in November and has set at home the kind of carbon reduction targets he also wants the G-7 to adopt. A proposal to eliminate polluting cars will test its success. There is, however, the prospect of tension. On China, Johnson wants to balance criticism of Beijing’s human rights record with openness to trade, and the UK’s European divorce has soured relations with other leaders. A dispute over trade rules for Northern Ireland will simmer on the sidelines and Johnson’s goal will be to prevent it from spilling over. What to expect: In the middle of the photoshoots on the beach, Johnson will have an eye on this summit in Glasgow. And he’ll want Biden to persuade leaders to make sure climate talks result in a deal to save the planet later in the year.
Angela Merkel: the outgoing veteran
Everywhere Merkel goes these days, there’s a good chance someone will feel pressured to give her a farewell speech. Or worse yet, a farewell gift. But the German Chancellor, known for her pragmatic style, is visibly uncomfortable in such situations and, above all, has little time for such sentimentality. In Cornwall, given that this will be its last G-7 summit after 16 years at the helm of Europe’s economic engine, it will have to suffer in part. But Merkel still has strong political goals, despite relinquishing the throne after the national elections in September.
One of its priorities is how to redefine relations with China – German companies depend on this market for their exports of high-end consumer goods – and Russia. Merkel grew up in East Germany and learned to speak Russian fluently. This gave him an edge when it came to connecting with Putin. Over the years, she has seen the Russian aggression in Crimea and Syria and how Moscow supported Belarus with the forced hijacking of a plane and the capture of a dissident. She saw the limits of what sanctions can do to bring rogue nations in line, and she saw with the Trump era the end of what she calls the post-war order.
What to expect: Uncensored advice to Biden and a true show of European unity.
Mario Draghi: the new heavyweight
Italians rarely have a say in the G-7. There is a bit of impostor syndrome at play as Italy has always emerged as a junior member of an elite club in developed countries, with a stagnant economy for decades. Historically, Italy has either auctioned off the United States (it owes its 1960s boom to the Marshall Plan) or has aligned itself very closely with Germany and France, the continent’s dominant voice once the He European Union has started to take shape. But this time it’s different. They have Draghi, a gold-plated powerhouse with the kind of experience and effortless gravity that many of his contemporaries will envy. During the Greek crisis, investors saw him as the one who saved the euro.
When he was chosen to become interim prime minister of Italy, the former head of the European Central Bank immediately showed his political strengths by being the first to impose an EU export ban to counter the sluggishness of the economy. block to vaccinate its population. Regarding Beijing, he set the tone by reversing his predecessor’s adherence to Chinese investment. On the climate, there is much more ambivalence because going green is expensive and Italy has no money to spare. However, Draghi is fully aware of the damage to a reputation for not being on the right side of history when it comes to the environment, especially as Italy hosts the G-20, where another important step will have to be taken. : a broader consensus on corporate taxes.
What to expect: When Draghi speaks, especially on the economic recovery, everyone will shut up and listen.
Emmanuel Macron: liberal champion in search of the limelight
Macron, the youngest French head of state since Napoleon, does not lack confidence. He is a shameless globalist whose vision of Europe with its own army leaves even the most passionate Europhiles uneasy. When he met Trump, he gave him a handshake so long and firm that the then president’s knuckles turned white. And yet, despite all these early promises, Macron had his share of missteps. At home, protesters have become a frequent presence in Paris due to the rising cost of living and the beheading of a teacher has raised questions about the integration of Muslims. Abroad, France’s complicated colonial heritage in Africa reaches its climax with the probable reduction of its military presence in the Sahel.
Despite all efforts to reason with Trump, Macron never made much progress, the relationship with the UK has been antagonistic in light of Brexit, and his handling of the pandemic has drawn criticism. Five years is a long time in politics and he now faces a tough re-election campaign with far-right candidate Marine Le Pen forcing him to calibrate his stance on immigration. With Merkel’s departure, Macron will seek to replace her as the US contact person for Europe. To do this, he will have to gain Biden’s trust and that will involve not being too strong.
What to expect: Macron loves to lecture – he did so as a host in Biarritz – but it can be a turning point.
Justin Trudeau: Keeping a low profile
The Canadian Prime Minister has been in power for over five years. He was once a social media darling with his youthful good looks and unwavering optimism. These days, he sports a grizzled beard and has become something of a footnote. Trump called it “weak” and withdrew from the joint communiqué agreed to in Quebec. The arrest of a senior executive at Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei made Canada the target of Beijing’s ire, and there was a failed trip to India to boot.
Trudeau struggled to react given Canada’s dependence on the United States and China for trade. He will support any initiative on China but, having been burned before, does not seek the limelight. Canada is at the forefront of many climate initiatives and while it would like the G-7 to get radical, it probably now knows it has limited scope to really influence the debate in a tangible way.
What to expect: Happy to make positive sounds about the climate.
Yoshihide Suga: the first timer
Suga has long been a key aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took the reins last year after stepping down on health grounds. He found himself struggling with all kinds of issues, from hosting an already delayed Summer Olympics during a pandemic or not to overseeing a vaccination campaign that took months to complete. set up in one of the most densely populated countries on the planet. with a high concentration of elderly people.
Abe was Japan’s longest-serving post-war ruler and forged a bond with Trump while lending his name to a series of policies designed to lift the economy out of its deflationary funk. Suga is making a hesitant debut on the international stage, and with just a month away from the Tokyo games (and with an election looming), he will seek support to ensure the event does not fail. He can even distribute invitations to the opening ceremony.
What to expect: Success will be measured by photo ops with other world leaders.
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