Why the G7 summit has 16 seats at the table? | News

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida has expanded his G7 guest list as he seeks to strengthen ties with middle-power nations.

Hiroshima, Japan He attends the G7 summit more often than its name suggests.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, host of this year’s Gathering of Wealthy Democracies, has expanded the event’s guest list as he seeks to strengthen ties with middle-power nations and those in the global south.

The Japanese leader’s outreach comes as the forum looks to strengthen cooperation on global challenges, including Russia’s war in Ukraine, the rise of China, food security and climate change.

How many countries are represented in the grouping?

The G7 currently consists of the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy, plus the European Union as an “unnamed member”, but over the years the forum has invited non-member countries to participate such as India, Poland and Spain.

This year, leaders of 16 countries, plus the European Union, are attending the three-day summit.

Aside from the G7 members and the European Union, leaders from India, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia, South Korea, the Comoros and the Cook Islands are also attending – the latter two also representing the African Union and the Pacific Islands Forum, respectively, as sitting chairmen. .

Why does the Group of Seven want to expand its relations with developing countries?

As the G7 looks to promote a united front in its efforts to pressure Russia to end its war in Ukraine, most of the international community has refused to take sides in the conflict.

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With the exception of Japan, the sanctions campaign against Russia was a Western-led effort.

While Russia’s trade with the G7 countries declined, China, India and Turkey experienced a great deal of slack through increased imports of Russian coal, oil and gas. The Russian economy contracted by only 2.2 percent in 2022, which is much less than expected.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shake hands before their bilateral meeting at the G7 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima, western Japan. [Japan Pool via AP]

Although the Group of Seven is still influential, its share of the global economy has fallen from around 70 percent during the 1980s to 44 percent today — meaning it has limited scope to clamp down on Russia without buying in from the broader international community.

“Kishida wants to get closer to the global south because the G7’s approach to Russia — and China — is somewhat insular,” Sayuri Shirai, an economics professor at Keio University in Tokyo, told Al Jazeera.

Many developing and emerging economies, due to their close linkages in natural resources or economics with Russia and/or China, are very keen to become part of a G7-led coalition.

“The Global South is important because their market share is growing and their GDP share (purchasing power parity, on a purchasing power parity basis) is over 50 percent,” Shirai added. “Meanwhile, Japan is aging and its population is declining.”

Does this mean that small and developing countries will have a bigger role in global affairs?

Some observers hope this year’s G7 summit will mark the beginning of a greater international role for voices that have been neglected in the past.

In an interview with Nikkei Asia earlier this week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he would use the summit to “amplify the voices and fears of the global south”.

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Ian Hall, deputy director of the Griffith Asia Institute in Australia, said the expanded focus of the G7 reflected a “wider crisis of multilateralism”.

“I think the outreach is real: there is a recognition that the voices of the global south are not always being heard and that they have to be, if we are to find a way forward on issues like climate change,” Hall told Al Jazeera.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes part in a G7 Working Session on Food, Health and Development during the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan [Susan Walsh/Pool via Reuters]

Critics are more skeptical of the G7’s interest in giving the global south a greater role in the world.

In an analysis released ahead of the summit, Oxfam said G7 nations continue to demand $232m worth of debt repayments every day from low- and middle-income countries even though they owe $13.3tn in unpaid aid and climate action funding.

“The rich countries of the G7 like to portray themselves as saviors but what they are doing is following a deadly double standard – they play by one set of rules while their former colonies are forced to play by another,” said Amitabh Behar, Interim Executive Director of Oxfam International. , “He does as I say, not as I do.”

“The rich world owes a debt to the Global South. The help they promised for decades but never delivered. The enormous costs of climate damage from their reckless burning of fossil fuels. The enormous wealth built on colonialism and slavery.”

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