Justin Trudeau sees mixed results on G7 Japan trip

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had two main goals heading into the G7 summit in Japan: he wanted support for his stimulus agenda for economic growth and a strong statement against paying hostage ransoms. The end result was mixed.

Canada gets tough words on ransoms, but approach on the global economy didn't win across-the-board support

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, during a working session at the G7 Summit in Shima. Trudeau used his time with the heads of some of the planet's biggest economies to promote Canada's free-trade deal with Europe. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had two main goals heading into the G7 summit in Japan: he wanted support for his stimulus agenda for economic growth and a strong statement against paying hostage ransoms. 

The end result was mixed.

Trudeau clearly gets along with the other leaders of the world's seven major economies. He was caught on camera joking with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and having a long discussion with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The recent state dinner in Washington showed the closeness of the relationship between Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama.

But getting along doesn't mean the leaders will agree on everything.

They came to Japan with different views on how to boost the global economy. And the final declaration did little to bridge that divide.

The leaders promised collective action to boost the global economy. But the exact wording is vague enough —  with references to "country-specific circumstances"—  to allow each country to take its own approach.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks with President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, at a meeting with outreach partners at the G7 Summit in Japan. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Canada favours spending. Germany favours restraint. This declaration doesn't resolve those opposing views. Rather, it papers over the differences between the leaders. 

Where there is some agreement is on the role infrastructure can play in the global economic recovery. Canada has made infrastructure spending a key part of its growth plan. The G7 leaders agree that is an effective path to global growth.

Migrant crisis likely topic in 2017

The overwhelming focus of this summit was the economy. But it is impossible to have that conversation without also discussing global security.

In their 32-page declaration, the leaders promised to "collectively tackle" major risks to global economic growth. 

Those include terrorist attacks, violent extremism, and the refugee migrant crisis — which will likely be a major focus of next year's summit in Italy.

The G7 leaders promised more aid to help refugees and more money to fight terrorism. They also promised tougher measures to limit the flow of cash to terrorist groups.

On that point, Canadian officials claim a personal victory at this summit for Trudeau.

The declaration condemns the paying of ransoms for hostages, calling it a source of funding for terrorist operations

Trudeau pushed for this to be in the declaration. It calls on all countries to refuse to pay.

Trudeau says Canada is taking this hard line because he doesn't want the Maple Leaf to be a target when it is sewn onto backpacks that go around the world.

He's digging in just a month after John Ridsdel, formerly of Calgary, was beheaded by a terrorist group in the Philippines that held him hostage for seven months. Another Canadian, Robert Hall, was kidnapped by the same group and is still being held. 

But the G7 has condemned ransoms before. 

It issued a similar declaration after the 2013 summit in Northern Ireland but European nations in particular are believed to continue to pay ransoms, using a network of proxies to funnel millions into the hands of groups with terrorist links.

Hope in new anti-ransom declaration 

Trudeau insists it will work this time, arguing that world leaders now have the resolve to back up their words because when the payments didn't stop after the 2013 declaration, neither did the kidnappings. 

PM had two goals, a statement against terror ransoms and another advocating stimulus spending. You win some, you lose some 2:19

The question he sidestepped at his summit closing news conference was whether he would publicly criticize a G7 country that broke ranks and brokered a ransom. Would Trudeau hold his counterparts accountable on the issue he championed?

He replied that public sentiment was clearly against paying and that citizens would hold their leaders to account.

But the final section of the G7 declaration contained a promise that the leaders would live up to all of their promises, including a ban on ransoms.

"We remain committed to holding ourselves to account, in an open and transparent way, for the promises we have made," the declaration states.

It's a clear promise. As clear as the promise to stop paying ransoms made three years ago that went unfulfilled.

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About the Author

David Cochrane

CBC News

David Cochrane is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary bureau. He previously wrote for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador.