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44th G7 summit starts today: What is G7, the rich men’s club?

By Shubham
|

The 44th summit of the Group of Seven (G7) in La Malbaie in Quebec, Canada, will kick off on Friday, June 8, and continue till Saturday, June 9. The upcoming summit could be an utterly tense one in the 42-year history of the grouping, thanks to US President Donald Trump's trade war with his countries' old allies.

44th G7 summit starts today: What is G7, the rich men’s club?

On this occasion, let's look back at the history of G7 - what is it and why did it come into being?

Leading industrial countries met after oil shock in mid-1970s

It was in 1975 when the heads of the state and government of the world's six leading industrial states decided to hold a meeting in the wake of the oil shock of 1973 and the financial crisis that followed. These six countries - the US, France, (West) Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and Italy - were later joined by Canada in 1976 and Russia in 1998. Russia later found itself absent after the remaining seven nations decided in March 2014 to meet without Moscow till further notice as retaliation against its annexation of Crimea that year.

The four-member 'Library Group' even before oil crisis

However, even before the six countries met in 1975, the concept of a platform for the world's leading industrialised countries even before the oil crisis unfolded in late 1973. In March 1973, the US treasury secretary George Shultz called an informal gathering of the finance ministers of the then West Germany, France and the UK before a scheduled meeting in Washington. The meeting took place in the library on the ground floor of the White House. The group was originally called the 'Library Group'.

A few months later, Japan joined it at the invitation of Shultz and the informal meeting of senior financial officials from the five countries now made it a 'Group of Five'.

The oil shock later saw this group bond further, leading to the emergence of today's G7 and when the first summit of the grouping (then G6) was held in November 1975 in Rambouillet, France, Italy too became a member.

It started as G6 before Canada joined it in 1976

Since 1975 till 2017, the G7 (originally G6) has seen 43 summits (haven't missed a single year) having taken place and they discussed issue of the world economy over the years. The inaugural summit was the result of the initiative taken by French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

At the first summit, the heads of the state/government of the six members discussed the oil shock, the resulting financial crisis and ways to overcome the recession. The members adopted a 15-point communiqué at the first summit (Declaration of Rambouillet) and decided to meet at least once every year with its presidency rotating. After Canada's inclusion the very next year, G6 became G7.

In 1977, direct talks were held between the G7 and the European Community and today, the president of the European Council attends the summit meetings.

Though the G7 took birth to handle economic problems emerging out of the oil shock and the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, from the 1980s, it also embraced foreign policy and security issues. The Iran-Iraq war and the occupation of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union became top issues for discussions at the club.

Russia became a member in 1998, making it G8; it remained absent since 2014

After the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the former Soviet Union/Russia was also invited to the summit in London (1991). Since then, Russian representatives regularly attended the summit till 2013. In 1998, Russia became a formal member of the group, turning G7 into G8. Russia was no more a part of the summit since its military adventures in Crimea and the group became G7 again since 2014.

Canada holds the current presidency of the G7. The 2019 summit will be held in Biarritz, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France.

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