Could G7 summit conclude without a joint communique for first time ever?

With two days to go until G7 leaders gather in Charlevoix, Quebec, summit participants have yet to agree on a final communique, according to reports by the German Press Agency (DPA).

Strife over U.S. tariffs might be frustrating efforts to draft a joint statement

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, accompanied by European Council President Donald Tusk and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, talks with President Donald Trump during a family photo with G7 leaders at the Ancient Greek Theater of Taormina in Taormina, Italy, May 26, 2017. (The Associated Press)

With two days to go until G7 leaders gather in Charlevoix, Quebec, summit participants have yet to agree on a final communique, according to reports by the German Press Agency (DPA).

Citing a source in Berlin, the press agency reports that disagreements with U.S. President Donald Trump over trade and climate change policies could lead the Charlevoix summit to conclude without the usual joint communique for the first time in G7 history.

The planned pre-negotiated consensus communique by the group of seven leading industrial nations — Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — "is hanging in the balance," the agency said.

Speaking on background, officials in the Prime Minister's Office did not deny the German report but said they "won't prejudge the outcomes of negotiations between leaders" and "are looking forward to working together on the big issues."

John Kirton, director of the G7 Research Group at the University of Toronto, said it's not surprising to hear the sides have not come to a consensus.

America's G7 isolation

"We have known for some time, even before the metal tariffs, that there was some chance that the Americans would not agree to a pre-negotiated consensus communique, and that as a result the Canadians might have to rely for the first time in summit history on having only a chair's statement or a summary," Kirton told Radio Canada International.

G7 summits often use a chair's statement or summary but they have always had a pre-negotiated communique, which normally would be agreed upon months before the leaders gather around the negotiating table.

The lack of an agreed communique at this point basically points to the United States' isolation in the G7, Kirton said.

There was almost no pre-negotiated final communique at Trump's first G7 summit in Taormina, Italy, last year, Kirton said.

"It was only at the last moment that the Americans agreed to let one go," Kirton said.

"If I had to guess, I think the outcome at Charlevoix will be the same as Taormina — that you will have a pre-negotiated consensus communique, if only a short one ... perhaps containing passages which say that the United States does not agree to this paragraph or part."

The Europeans and the Japanese prefer a long and detailed pre-negotiated communique, while the U.S. side prefers no communique at all or a short statement by the leaders highlighting some of the commitments, Kirton said.

As G7 host, Canada has always opted for rather minimalist communiques instead of the very lengthy ones preferred by the Europeans and the Japanese, he said.

"But if Canada is forced to fall back on just a chair's statement, you can get commitments that certainly can be complied with," Kirton said. "So it's not the end of the game."


Levon Sevunts

Radio Canada International

Levon Sevunts is a reporter/producer for Radio Canada International. Born and raised in Armenia, he immigrated to Canada in 1992. As a print and broadcast journalist he has covered major stories in the Caucasus, Afghanistan, Darfur, the Sahara and the High Arctic, as well as his home of Montreal.