By: Tomas Penfold Perez
The coastal Italian town of Taormina will be home to the leaders of the world’s greatest superpowers for the 43rd G7 Summit on May 26-27, 2017. Foreign leaders are set to discuss contested world issues, with the 2016 Paris Climate Accord and the refugee crisis likely being at the forefront of discussion.
The small town of Taormina, Sicily – described as the “pearl of the Ionian Sea – sets the stage for a contested meeting amongst world leaders from Germany, the United States, Italy, Japan, China, UK and Canada as well as representatives of the European Union.
The annual G7 summit plays an imperative role in shaping economic and social policy which helps garner the best responses to global issues that may arise in the future. Last year, the world witnessed a wave of protectionist, anti-free trade candidate’s rising to the forefront of political discussion through their anti-immigration rhetoric and skeptic views on climate change.
The Presidency of Donald Trump has posed a risk for the global economy as his unpredictability and aggressive tone on matters of international trade have left the markets incredibly volatile. Despite of Trump’s Twitter tirades and protectionist ideals, members of the G7 are confident in cooperating to stabilize the global economy and ease international uncertainty.
This week’s summit grants President Trump the chance to discuss his views on foreign and economic policy in what will be his first opportunity to represent the United States on the international stage. More importantly, however, will be the capacity to which member nations press Trump on articulating his “America First” stance that has had foreign leaders questioning America’s commitment to pre-existing trade agreements and future cooperation on matters regarding terrorism and climate change.
Trump’s Climactic Decision
Efforts to fight climate change led by China, Germany and the United Kingdom have often been countered by equal skepticism; among the leading skeptics being Trump.
Since elected, Trump has enacted several executive orders to dismantle Obama-era climate policies Chinese President Xi Jinping has surprisingly taken leadership and augmented his climate policies dramatically, most recently moving to step away from coal and taking action to reduce carbon emissions. U.S.-China leadership under the Obama administration was crucial to the development of the 2016 Paris Climate Accord and many believe Trump’s skepticism may alter the way members countries partaking in the accords efforts may react to a world power not agreeing to meet their quota. After all, Trump did tweet: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”.
Not all members of Trump’s inner circle agree with his skepticism. White House Innovations Director Jared Kushner, his wife and daughter of Trump, Ivanka, in addition to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have all questioned Trump’s stance on the issue and have attempted to persuade him to remain in favor of keeping the U.S. in the accord.
Reports suggest that President Donald Trump will postpone his decision to stay or abandon the Paris Climate accord until after the summit; White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer noted that this decision was made in order to give President Trump time to “meet with his advisors and decide what’s in the best interest of the United States.”
Trump will face insurmountable pressure from member states to keep the United States in the 2016 Paris Climate Accord as opting to abandon the accord may harm the prospects of G7 nations cooperating with the United States in other issues, from trade to the refugee crisis.
The European Migrant Crisis
Ongoing violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, in addition to the escalating conflict in Syria, continues to be responsible for the refugee crisis plaguing Europe. Since 2015, over one million refugees have entered Germany and Italy has seen a 44 percent rise in refugee migrants entering Italy this year alone despite diplomatic efforts to stem their flow.
Migration has become a political liability for Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni’s center-left government as he begins to deal with the same thwart of attacks from the European populist parties that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is all too familiar with. Merkel continues to promise to not turn away any Syrian refugees and refuses to set an upper limit for the number of asylum-seekers that Germany can take in, despite the crime rate among migrants rising by more than 50 percent last year alone.
Donald Trump’s refugee rhetoric is one that draws a stark contrast to Obama-era policies that were implemented to help European counterparts ease the process of the massive influx of migrants. An executive order signed by Trump in March, which is currently held up in the courts, plans to ban arrivalsfrom six Muslim majority countries –Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Yet the irony is that this past week, Trump stood before leaders from 55 Muslim countries in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and called on them to join the United States in “honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism, the Islamists, and Islamic terror of all kinds.” Trump’s speech was intended to unite the broader Muslim world against the common enemies despite signing executive orders barring migrants from entering the U.S.
The G7 summit provides a platform for leaders come up with plausible social and economic policy proposals that will benefit member countries and the world as a whole. Despite there being array of problems to discuss during the summit, pundits hope members of the G7 can leave Taormina on May 27 with a climate accord that will remain intact and new policies to alleviate the migrant crisis in Europe.
Tomas Penfold Perez is a communications intern for the EastWest Institute. He is a Fordham University graduate who majored in International Political Economy and Communications & Media Industries.