G7 Hiroshima Summit Outcomes
The annual Group of Seven (G7) summit presents an opportunity for the world’s largest advanced democracies to coordinate on geopolitical, economic, and security issues. The G7 concluded its annual summit with the release of the G7 Hiroshima Leaders’ Communiqué on May 21, 2023. Japan, this year’s G7 president, hosted the summit in Hiroshima, where the leaders of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan, along with representatives from the European Union and other invited guests, met to discuss a range of pressing global challenges.
Q1: What was agreed to at the G7 summit?
A1: As expected, the leaders' communiqué featured commitments and statements on a range of topics including climate, health, food security, and technology. However, the war in Ukraine, nuclear nonproliferation, and economic security were the most prominent.
The primary focus of this year’s G7 summit was reaffirming support for Ukraine; it was the first item addressed in the communiqué and the subject of a separate statement by G7 leaders. President Volodymyr Zelensky’s surprise visit to Hiroshima further underscored the importance of this issue. At the summit, G7 leaders committed to implementing new sanctions on key sectors in Russia, providing Ukraine with budget support through early 2024, and reducing reliance on Russian energy. In the statement, the leaders also made clear that Russia should bear the largest financial burden for the reconstruction of Ukraine and that all war criminals should be held accountable. Individually, the United States and United Kingdom announced new additions to their sanction regimes against Russia. Also, reversing an earlier position by President Biden, the United States agreed to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets.
Nuclear disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation also featured prominently at the summit. In Hiroshima, the hometown of Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida, G7 leaders stated their commitment to a world without nuclear weapons in The G7 Leaders’ Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament, but they recognized this issue needs a “realistic, pragmatic, and responsible approach.” Until that goal can be met, the leaders reaffirmed the importance of established international treaties and institutions, such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). The statement called out Russia for threatening to use nuclear weapons in its invasion of Ukraine. Likewise, the leaders called for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program and reaffirmed the importance of stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
On the topic of economic security, G7 leaders focused on building supply chain resilience, countering economic coercion, and protecting critical technologies. The leaders explicitly addressed China in an unusual section of the communiqué by stating that G7 economic policies are not designed to harm or decouple from China but are rather aimed at diversification and de-risking. The communiqué named critical minerals, semiconductors, and batteries as supply chains of particular concern and pledged enhanced coordination within the G7 and with developing countries. In response to China’s coercive economic practices (the subject of a recent CSIS report) the G7 Leaders’ Statement on Economic Resilience and Economic Security called for the creation of a new Coordination Platform on Economic Coercion to promote cooperation within and beyond the G7 in responding to economic coercion. The leaders also agreed to strengthen multilateral export controls on dual-use technology, another measure implicitly targeted at China.
On climate and energy, the leaders started by emphasizing their commitment to the Paris Agreement but made only limited progress on how to reach that goal. The communiqué supports the creation of Just Energy Transition Partnerships and the evolution of multilateral development banks to address global public goods such as climate change. It also committed to a “fully or predominantly decarbonized power sector by 2035.” The leaders also endorsed the G7 Clean Energy Economy Action Plan, which emphasizes, inter alia, the importance trade policies will play in reaching net-zero emissions. However, climate activists criticize the communiqué and action plan because, at Germany and Japan’s insistence, the documents “publicly supported investment in the gas sector” and failed to set a deadline for the phaseout of unabated coal power. In this way, the G7 prioritized reducing its dependence on Russian energy over decarbonization.
The G7 leaders also touched on food security and health in the communiqué. On food security, the leaders highlighted the importance of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and called on all participants to fulfill their commitments. Throughout the communiqué, the leaders emphasized that all countries should do their part to minimize spillover damage from the war in Ukraine to the rest of the world. On health, the leaders agreed to coordinate on pandemic preparedness, as well as vaccine manufacturing and distribution. The communiqué also had sections on human rights, the environment, labor, and education.
Q2: What were Japan's priorities for their G7 host year, and did it accomplish these goals?
A2: Leading up to Hiroshima, Japan’s stated priorities focused on aligning the advanced democracies to defend the international rules-based order and outreach to the Global South. Japan’s commitment to addressing these issues can be seen in the agenda, who was invited, and the location. Overall, Japan achieved moderate success on these two goals, with the real test being the implementation of the commitments made at the summit.
The agenda for the summit reflected Japan’s priorities by focusing on traditional security and economic security, Ukraine, technology, and a host of issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The leaders made notable commitments on most, but not all, of these issues. Japan’s G7 produced notable progress on cooperation against economic coercion and on the G7’s continued support for Ukraine. However, on issues related to climate, health, and food security, the G7 did not make major new pledges.
Japan also scored points on inclusiveness by inviting a diverse set of observer countries. In total 17 countries attended the summit; in addition to the G7 and the European Union, leaders from India, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia, South Korea, Ukraine, Comoros, and Cook Islands all attended the summit. The participation of Australia and the Republic of Korea (ROK), the next two largest advanced democracies, reflects Japan’s recognition the importance of multilateralization of traditional and economic security measures. Bringing in some of the largest emerging economies and regional representatives helped Japan in its goal to work more closely with the Global South in increasing pressure on Russia, fighting climate change, and responding to the challenge of a more assertive China.
Japan strategically selected the city of Hiroshima to promote its goal of nuclear disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation because it is the site of the first nuclear bombing. When the G7 leaders arrived, they were greeted at a memorial of the event, visited the Peace Museum, and met with a survivor. Kishida used the visit to showcase the dangers of nuclear use, a compelling message at a time when Russian president Putin has threatened to use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Kishida later visited the museum with Ukrainian president Zelensky. As mentioned above, the G7 leaders issued a standalone statement that condemns Russia’s threats and calls out China for the lack of transparency surrounding its nuclear buildup.
Q3: What other notable diplomatic engagements took place on the sidelines of the summit?
A3: The G7 provided a venue for other diplomatic engagements among leaders attending the summit. Most significant was a short meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (commonly known as the Quad), which served as something of a substitute for the planned meeting in Sydney that was canceled after the president cut short his trip to the region. After the meeting, the four Quad leaders issued a Joint Statement that included a number of substantial deliverables: an announcement that the four countries will cooperate with the Government of Palau to replace its telecommunications network with Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) capabilities; a partnership to promote best practices and provide technical assistance on regional undersea cable projects; and the creation of a Quad Infrastructure Fellowships Program, to train government officials across the region to effectively design, negotiate, and manage complex infrastructure projects—an effort aimed at equipping partners in the region to resist exploitative terms. The leaders also announced the establishment of a Quad Investors Network, an independent forum intended to foster collaboration on critical technologies. After the third in-person leaders meeting since 2021, the Quad is delivering tangible, if not flashy, benefits to the region—although this year’s outcomes were largely overshadowed by the G7 itself and the cancellation of the president’s trip to Australia. India will host the next leaders meeting in 2024. A critical focus over the next year will be further institutionalizing the leader-level process, to ensure that it endures through political transitions in the participating governments.
The G7 venue also served as an opportunity to build further momentum in Japan-ROK ties. Although a planned trilateral meeting with President Biden was cut short, Prime Minister Kishida and President Yoon together visited a small memorial in Hiroshima to Korean victims of the atomic bombing—some 20,000 were killed, many of them laborers brought to Japan during the colonial period. Yoon was the first sitting South Korean president to visit the memorial, and he described Kishida’s visit to the memorial with him as a “brave act.”
Q4: How did this G7 compare to previous years, and what can Italy be expected to focus on in 2024?
A4: Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, experts questioned the continued relevance and power of the G7. However, the war in Ukraine has given the G7 a renewed common purpose. During the 2022 and 2023 summits, coordinated support for Ukraine has been a top priority, and the summits have produced notable agreements between the members on sanctions, diplomatic support, and direct aid. Rising tensions with both Russia and China have further undermined the effectiveness of the G20, previously self-described as the “premier forum for international economic cooperation.” As Japan’s G7 host year continues through December, with several key ministerials still to be held, implementation of the commitments made at Hiroshima will ultimately define the success of the summit.
Looking ahead to 2024, Italy will assume the role of G7 president in January. Despite questions about Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s leadership, she has so far proved to be a reliable partner on the European and international stage. As one of the smaller economies in the G7, in the past, Italy has tried to exert its influence by being an effective host. Though Italy’s priorities are currently unknown, it is likely that Rome will focus on continued support for Ukraine and potentially reconstruction depending on how the situation evolves over the next 12 months. In addition, China promises to be a continued concern for the G7. Earlier this month, Italy announced that it is reluctant to renew its Belt and Road Initiative with China, signaling increasing tensions. Creating a mechanism to restructure developing countries’ debt, increasing green investment projects, and advancing food security are other likely priorities for Italy. The 2024 G7 summit will represent another chance for leaders of the largest advanced democracies to build on the commitments made in Hiroshima and work to align their positions on relevant global issues.
Matthew P. Goodman is senior vice president for economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. Hannah Grothusen is a program coordinator and research assistant with the CSIS Economics Program. Christopher Johnstone is senior adviser and Japan Chair at CSIS. Federico Steinberg is visiting fellow with the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program at CSIS and a senior analyst at the Royal Elcano Institute.