The latest G7 summit was a waste of resources. If it had to be held at all, it should have been conducted online, saving time, logistical costs, and airplane emissions. But, more fundamentally, G7 summits are an anachronism. Political leaders need to stop devoting their energy to an exercise that is unrepresentative of today’s global economy and results in a near-complete disconnect between stated aims and the means adopted to achieve them.
There was absolutely nothing at the G7 summit that could not have been accomplished much more cheaply, easily, and routinely by Zoom. The most useful diplomatic meeting this year was President Joe Biden’s online meeting with 40 world leaders in April to discuss climate change. Routine online international meetings by politicians, parliamentarians, scientists, and activists are important. They normalize international discussions.

But why should those discussions occur within the G7, which has been superseded by the G20? When the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) began their annual summit meetings in the 1970s, they still dominated the world economy. In 1980, they constituted 51% of world GDP (measured at international prices), whereas the developing countries of Asia accounted for just 8.8%. In 2021, the G7 countries produce a mere 31% of world GDP, while the same Asian countries produce 32.9%.

The G20, by including China, India, Indonesia, and other large developing countries, represents around 81% of world output, and balances the interests of its high-income and developing economies. It is not perfect, as it leaves out smaller and poorer countries and should add the African Union (AU) as a member, but at least the G20 offers a fruitful format for discussing global topics covering most of the world economy. The annual EU-US Summit can accomplish much that the G7 originally aimed to cover.
The G7 is particularly irrelevant because its leaders don’t deliver on their promises. They like making symbolic statements, not solving problems. Worse, they give the appearance of solving global problems, while really leaving them to fester. This year’s summit was no different.

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