FALMOUTH, England – Summits can be as much about burying battle axes as they are about big plans for the future. Here are some of the major – and ongoing – fights to watch in the G7.
United Kingdom vs. France
There would be something wrong if we had a G7 summit without at least some animosity between the UK and France. Just as Boris Johnson thought he had quelled diplomatic wrangling with Washington over the Brexit follow-up in Northern Ireland, Emmanuel Macron came back again to say that the idea of renegotiating the trade mechanism was “not serious”. And in a gesture of EU unity, he tweeted a photo of himself upon his arrival in Cornwall with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Council President Charles Michel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, declaring: “As always, the same union, the same determination to act, the same enthusiasm! The G7 can begin. “In an uncertain world, France’s pose harsher than the others on Brexit is reassuring to say the least in its consistency.
Likewise, Macron will not have endeared himself to the UK (not that he would) by suggesting that the G7 is trailing in France’s wake on vaccine diplomacy. Before the summit, he threw down the gauntlet by expressing his support for the patenting of vaccines. He tweeted: “From day one, France has worked to make solutions to the pandemic a global public good… Sharing doses, opening up intellectual property, financing health systems. It’s up to the G7 to get involved. “The UK, along with Germany, remains opposed to the WTO waiver.
US vs. EU
Brussels and Washington also cannot agree on the waiver of intellectual property rights related to vaccines. Washington sparked surprise across the Atlantic last month when the Biden administration said it would support ongoing WTO waiver talks. EU leaders reacted with skepticism, saying they had not received any details on how the plan would work, or more importantly, get vaccines to poor countries faster – a red herring, in short.
But with Emmanuel Macron and the European Parliament giving their support to the idea in recent days, the pressure will mount for a change of position in Europe.
And while there have been positive signals on trade, there are still two major sources of tension between the US and the EU: aircraft and steel. The first is the long-running Airbus / Boeing civil aircraft dispute, which has resulted in politically sensitive goods such as Scotch whiskey and Harley Davidson hit by reciprocal tariffs. The second is a Trump-era measure that treats steel imports from the EU and the UK as a national security risk. Discussions are underway on both fronts.
“The conversation is much less about bilateral relations and tariffs – as far as steel is concerned, but more about strategy with China,” said Chad Bown, senior researcher at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
South Korea vs. Japan
The two countries have a complicated history. After a court ruling in 2018, part of that story resurfaced and sparked new disputes. Tokyo signed a treaty in 1965 that restored diplomatic relations between the two countries and provided loans and grants to repair its troubling colonial legacy in Seoul.
But South Korea’s 2018 ruling determined that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Limited should pay reparations to the families of workers who were used as forced labor during World War II, which escalated tensions. Then, Japan curbed the export of sensitive materials used in the manufacturing of technology to South Korea. This has put additional strain on strained global supply chains.
If that wasn’t enough, there is also a territorial dispute between the two nations that is gaining more attention due to an Olympic map.
Germany v United States
The construction of a pipeline to bring Russian gas to Germany has long been a source of anger in the United States. The Republican and Democratic administrations saw the Nord Stream 2 project as an attack on security in the region and, therefore, the commitments made by Germany as a member of NATO.
Still, there has been a change since Joe Biden took the helm. POLITICO said the United States plans to lift sanctions against an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who runs the company that is building the pipeline. But there may still be tensions ahead.
The State Department said last month: “The Biden administration has made it clear that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a Russian geopolitical project… We continue to review entities involved in potentially sanctionable activities and have made it clear that the companies risked sanctions if they were involved in Nord Stream 2.
Japan vs. UK
Without a doubt, there are those for whom Tory Britain still brings up images of tally toffs across the campaign, but Boris Johnson’s Tories have made some sort of animal welfare trip. This is in large part thanks to Johnson’s wife Carrie, formerly the party’s communications director.
An animal lover, she helped spark a new Tory branding, embracing the ‘conservation’ part of their members’ instincts and showcasing Britain as a new protection for wildlife and livestock after Brexit (please apply your own dose of skepticism here). With that in mind, Johnson had strong words for Japan on whaling in January, which might not be easily brushed aside.
And one more thing …
England vs. Boris
The biggest row of all is actually Johnson’s decision to schedule his major G7 press conference to face England’s Euro 2020 football game against Croatia.