What's the point of all the effort? This question arises anew every year when the G7 summit takes place. For months, representatives of the seven industrialized nations have been working on security concepts and possible messages for the final communiqué in advance. When the time comes, the delegations travel thousands of kilometres by plane to meet in an isolated art world. Last year's summit in Elmau cost German taxpayers hundreds of millions. In Hiroshima, Japan, 24,000 police officers have been deployed in recent days to prepare a stage for the G7. Was it worth it?
Perhaps the surprising answer is yes. There is no doubt that most of the messages spread at such summits are neither new nor surprising. The world should be a peaceful one. International economic relations are to become more resilient. Climate change must be stopped.
What Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) said in Hiroshima has often been heard in one way or another. However, during these summits, a dynamic often comes into processes that telephone calls and video conferences alone cannot achieve. The United States' fighter jet announcement to Ukraine is one such example, and the goal of "starving" Russia's war machine through tougher sanctions is another.
The largest free trade area is elsewhere
What actually follows from the demonstratively displayed summit unity is another matter. Many points in the final declarations are so vaguely worded that everyone can interpret them according to their own interests. One example is the eagerly awaited passage on outbound investment screening in the decision paper on economic security. It is acknowledged that it may be important to supplement the existing export and investment controls with a control of foreign investment when it comes to technologies that could endanger security – this formulation does not oblige anything, but makes many things possible.
Other statements are unspectacular, but they are all the more significant. The final communiqué states that the policies of the G7 should not harm China. "We have no intention of hindering China's economic progress and development." The fact that the Americans support this formulation is remarkable, since the export restrictions they have imposed on microchips and machines for their production are aimed precisely at this: to prevent China from becoming the world's largest economy instead of the United States. It remains to be seen whether the confrontational course will actually subside. But a sign has been set.
It is to be hoped that this spirit will also guide Germany's China strategy, which is due to be completed soon. It is right to reduce the dependencies that have arisen, for example in the import of raw materials and medicines. It also makes sense to take a close look at investments by Chinese state-owned companies in Germany to see whether security interests are at risk. However, the German government should not give in to the recent pressure exerted by the Americans on their allies to cut off China from Western high-tech products. This would no longer have anything to do with fair play in world trade.
Despite the numerous messages from Hiroshima, the question arises as to how timely the institution of the G-7 summit still is. When the group was founded in 1975, it still accounted for around 60 percent of global economic output. Now it is still 31 percent, and the trend is declining. The only way to speak of the "leading industrial nations" is to add the additions "Western" and "democratic". It may still be the ambition of the G7 to shape the world order. They are less and less able to fulfill it.
Less than half of the world's population lives in a democracy. Instead of relying on the principles of the market economy, many of the emerging economies rely on the power of state capitalism. Will countries such as China, India and Brazil, currently part of the G20, one day form their own group of leading industrialized nations? In any case, the RCEP agreement, which came into force last year, shows how the balance of power is shifting: the fifteen countries from the Asia-Pacific region form the largest free trade area in the world. The US and the EU are left out.