G7: Charlevoix, Quebec - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 11th June 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Smith of Basildon Baroness Smith of Basildon Shadow Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 6:00 pm, 11th June 2018

My Lords, first, I congratulate the Prime Minister on resisting the temptation to issue her Statement on the summit on Twitter.

We agree with the opening remarks in the Statement: it is worth reminding ourselves of the purpose and value of the G7. These seven developed, large modern economies have recognised both self-interest as a group and wider world responsibilities. We have worked together during financial crises and on the sustainable development goals, and we have taken action on debt for the heavily indebted poor countries. There have obviously been criticisms of that time, but these gatherings have been optimistic and have sought to be effective and responsible.

This time, it is fair to say that expectations were pretty low before the summit, but I suspect that the real outcomes—not just those in the communiqué—are more worrying than anyone anticipated. It is increasingly clear that, despite the best efforts of G7 members to seek to manage and engage with President Trump, the US President does not abide by the same rules. It may appear chaotic, but his unpredictability has become very predictable. Even as other G7 leaders and the EU Council President thanked Prime Minister Trudeau and his team for hosting the summit, President Trump tore up the diplomatic rule book to decry the Canadian Prime Minister as being “weak” and “dishonest”. Those now trademark forthright tweets appear to isolate him from the G7 as an effective group and, whatever agreements are reached and whatever compromises are made, it is not certain whether the agreement or acquiescence of the US will last as long as the flight home.

One part of the Prime Minister’s Statement evoked memories of the understatements of Sir Humphrey Appleby and Jim Hacker in “Yes, Prime Minister”—the part where she says:

“This was a difficult summit with, at times, some very candid discussions”.

How well this was illustrated by the marvellous photograph of Chancellor Angela Merkel, supported by the other leaders, as she leans forward across a table to a seated President Trump, with his arms folded, looking away from her at something in the distance—he did not want to look at her. You could almost hear that “candid discussion”.

The implication of this summit is that it appears that President Trump does not see himself or the US as part of a global strategy seeking a consensus on key international issues. Indeed, he does not appear to value his association with the UK. The Prime Minister has made much of her special relationship with President Trump, and Ministers have been vocal in their opinion of the necessity of this, particularly in a post-Brexit world. However, when asked about his relationship with the G7, President Trump declared that the level of his relationship was a 10 with “Angela, Emmanuel and Justin”, very pointedly and deliberately ignoring Mrs May and, later, briefing against her. If our Prime Minister has irked the President in some way, it could well be to her personal credit that she has done so, but it does not bode well for our transatlantic special relationship. It also means that our relationship with our European partners is all the more essential.

Even without US endorsement, there are some good and strong outcomes in the communiqué. We appreciate that the G6 has signed up to a progressive, value-based programme that is to be welcomed. It includes the condemnation of Russia’s destabilising behaviour in seeking to undermine democratic systems, its support of the Syrian regime and the attack in Salisbury. Yet, although initially signing up to this, President Trump also called for Russia to again be part of a G8 summit.

We welcome the recognition that ensuring that all citizens benefit from the proceeds of growth is essential for a cohesive modern society to meet the challenges ahead. Given the imposition of the new US tariffs, to which the noble Baroness referred, President Trump’s intentions, if not the accuracy of the assessment, could not have been clearer. The Prime Minister refers to the open, direct discussion, but President Trump did not sound like he was discussing it with anyone. He said:

“We’re like the piggy bank that everyone’s robbing. And that ends”.

He went on:

“If they retaliate…we win that war a thousand times out of a thousand”.

This is clearly a difficult situation. Can the noble Baroness say anything more about the implications for the forthcoming EU summit and what discussions she has already had with our current European partners?

The commitment to a more secure and peaceful world and advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment are important statements but, to be effective, they must jointly be acted on with political will and adequate funding. This was also a key issue at CHOGM earlier this year. I ask the noble Baroness, if she can respond today, how this builds on the CHOGM discussions. Is it consistent with the outcomes from that conference?

The statement on the protection and sustainability of our oceans and coastal communities is clear and far-reaching. Was the impact of the US withdrawing from the Paris agreement properly discussed? The comment at the end of that section of the communiqué is conciliatory to the US, but that US decision has serious implications.

If we are to build a more peaceful and secure world, all countries must abide by international law and their international responsibilities. Yet, in the past few days, the Italian Government have refused to let a rescue ship dock despite it carrying around 600 refugees, including young children, unaccompanied minors and pregnant women. That undermines those international agreements and the sense of shared responsibilities that underpin bodies such as the G7 and the G20. What discussions have the UK had with other EU countries regarding this situation and future implications?

I hope that, when the noble Baroness answers the questions today, she will also turn her attention to the value of the relationship we will have in the future with our EU partners.