Pikachus and Kate Middleton win the day at G-7, obviously
Would you like to take a long walk on a beach with Justin Trudeau? He’s free tomorrow at 6 a.m. in Carbis Bay, Cornwall. Must be willing to share him with security detail.
At least Trudeau knew where he was when he went for his morning run Friday: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi was overhead asking Boris Johnson in front of the cameras: “Is this Land’s End?” — a landmark 20 miles away.
It’s fair to say that the serious work of Day 1 of the G-7 summit fell a bit flat. A crowd ranging from UNICEF to Tony Blair thinks the plan for one billion donated vaccine doses in 2021 and 2022 is too little and too slow.
You know what they say: give Pikachu and Kate Middleton an inch, and they’ll win the news cycle.
Let’s get down to business.
What was today’s most memorable summit moment?
ALex Wickham, London Playbook author:
The line of the day was, after the family photo of leaders, Merkel urging Johnson to move ahead, telling him “you are the leader.” Steady! The top-line announcement of one billion jabs and a plan to vaccinate the world by the end of next year hardly set the G-7 alight — lots of questions about both the speed and scale of the proposal. The word is we will be getting a fair bit more than just the billion jab announcement this weekend, stay tuned!
Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent & Associate Editor:
Greetings from Biden world, where I was traveling with the president today. The moment that got the most attention by the small group of White House journalists I was with today was when Biden and Marcon wrapped their arms around each other and walked along the St. Ives Bay toward the start of the summit. They had never met before but they seemed to engage in an animated conversation that included talk about how to make democracies more effective for the middle class, one of Biden’s frequent mantras.
Ryan Heath, Global Translations author:
For me, the pregame today was the main game. The Europeans brazenly caucused in advance like a faction! Then the White House announced Angela Merkel is going to pay a visit on July 15. That’s all about giving Mutti a farewell photo op and state dinner, with a dessert called Cancel Nordstream II — named after the controversial gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, which the Biden administration hates.
David M. Herszenhorn, Chief Brussels Correspondent:
Five of nine leaders are attending their first G7 summit, but the real novelty was having Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the former president of the European Central Bank, on hand to talk about the post-pandemic economic recovery. Draghi spoke second after Biden, and Boris Johnson introduced him, recalling how he was at an investor conference in London (as the city’s mayor) in 2012, when Draghi effectively saved the euro currency with three words: “whatever it takes.” Today Draghi said there was a “compelling case” for continued expansionary fiscal policy but also said there was a need to reassure markets of an eventual return to fiscal prudence. Normally, leaders have to outsource for that kind of central banker wisdom.
Karl Matheisen, senior climate correspondent:
The G-7 climate Pickachu protests. Giant yellow Pikachus descended on Cornwall to push alleged Pokémon fan Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga on his coal policy. The moral: “being inside a Pikachu costume is like a worst case global warming. Hot, sweaty and a constant fear you’re gonna fall into the sea.”
(Editor’s note: We live in interesting times. Local police in Cornwall initially thought the Pickachu mob was a rowdy bachelor party, President Biden’s motorcade dodged protesters dressed as jellyfish.)
Now to the big news: Kate Middleton finds a new American bestie, FLOTUS!
Nahal Toosi, Foreign Affairs Correspondent:
We need to find out exactly how Kate Middleton treated Meghan Markle. This should have been the first lady’s primary mission, and the U.S. public should expect a report.
Alex Wickham, London Playbook author:
Here’s a half-answer. A U.S. reporter managed to get a news line out of Kate, asking about Harry and Meghan’s new daughter Lilibet. Kate’s words: “I wish her the very best. I can’t wait to meet her. We haven’t met her yet, I hope that will be soon.” No Royal FaceTime has yet taken place.
Kumar: Alex is right. The Duchess made a little news — and the event with Jill Biden may just overshadow the G-7 altogether in certain media outlets.
Rym Momtaz, Paris correspondent:
More seriously, FLOTUS talking about early childhood issues with Kate Middleton is a striking choice. Jill Biden is a lifelong teacher, and the Duchess has worked on the issue for years now.
Heath: I feel like wearing Melania’s “I don’t really care, do you?” jacket to this question. But to keep it serious: women rarely get to make news at G-7 summits. For most of her 16 years in power Angela Merkel has been the only woman at the summit table. And then the official photographer sidelined both Merkel and the EU’s Ursula von der Leyen in the official photo! ♂️ You can’t say women don’t care: One walked 84 miles to conduct a personal protest outside the summit.
China is the elephant in the room. Discuss.
Toosi: Dealing with the rise of authoritarian-led China is the big issue, and it’s a point of tension among the U.S. and some of its European allies. Germany’s Angela Merkel is concerned about preserving and growing trade with Beijing. France’s Emmanuel Macron has been saying Europe needs its own China strategy independent of the United States. Still, there is growing concern in Europe about the Chinese Communist Party’s ultimate aims, and while we may not get complete unity on every aspect, Biden has a good shot at convincing European counterparts to be more cautious in their ties to China.
Stuart Lau, EU-China Correspondent:
EU officials have come a long way. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today publicly agreed to forge a transatlantic partnership to tackle China, tweeting after her meeting with Biden: “A close transatlantic unity is essential to face today’s challenges — from dealing with China to protecting our climate,” Beijing is not going to like this hardening stance from the EU, which it sees as getting increasingly close to the US position — from talking about Taiwan to implementing an Indo-Pacific strategy. Macron also warned it wouldn’t be appropriate for NATO to make China a priority.
Heath: The G-7 also needs China in a way — as an organizing force and to keep it relevant. The club has gone from delivering 80 percent of global GDP when it formed in 1975, down to 45 percent today. David Cameron had this brilliant line about Prime Minister Tony Blair when he first took him on in the House of Commons: “You were the future once.” I think of that line a lot at these summits of Western powers.
Mathiesen: It’s not only that, Ryan. Alongside the declining share of GDP, China now emits more carbon than the G7 combined. That’s a huge shift in control over the future of climate stability. Much depends on whether the G7 can get their act in line and send a clear message to China that they are going to start racing ahead in a full-blown clean tech revolution. If not, there won’t be much impetus for Beijing to turn the wheel harder than it currently is.
Andy Blatchford, Canada correspondent:
Trudeau came to the G-7 with the intention of once again seeking support from allies — and especially the U.S. — on what he’s called China’s “arbitrary” detention of two Canadians. On Friday, far away from the G-7 summit, the prime minister got an assist. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed for the immediate release of Canadians “wrongfully” detained in China during a phone call with top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi, according to a U.S. readout. Canada has been hoping for direct, high-level U.S. pressure on Beijing over the detentions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, known colloquially as the “two Michaels.” The men were rounded up more than 900 days ago in an apparent retaliation over Canadian authorities’ December 2018 arrest of Huawei senior executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant. All three arrests have severely damaged bilateral diplomatic relations and, for Trudeau, freeing the two Michaels has become a top foreign policy concern.
Are the leaders getting up to anything spicy in their bilateral meetings and social time?
Kumar: Biden saw the Queen after 40 long years! It’s remarkable but the White House tells us that Biden last met with the Queen in 1982. The Bidens attended a reception at Eden Project, an eco-park in Bodelva that has several giant domes housing what it calls the largest rainforest in captivity. He was joined by Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge. Alas, the White House press corps was shut out of the event or I’d tell you more.
Herszenhorn: It’s Turkey vs. Italy as Group A of Euro 2020 football championship gets underway at Stadio Olimpico in Rome and we expect Mario Draghi and Emannuel Macron will try to catch some of the match. Macron has been known to duck out of European Council summits to check the score when Marseille is playing.
Heath: Boris Johnson went for a run (not as quickly as Justin Trudeau) and swam in the sea at the crack of dawn. No sighting yet of him on the $6,000 handmade bike and Joe Biden gifted him Thursday, from Philadelphia-based Bilenky Cycle Works. Will be interesting to see if Trudeau keeps up his mask-wearing when he thinks the cameras are off, or if it’s purely theater for Covid-restricted domestic Canadian audiences. Trudeau has form when it comes to summit faux pas.
What do we make of the G-7 special guests: India, South Africa, South Korea and Australia?
Toosi: India’s presence is understandable given its size, economic import and relationship with China. You have to wonder, though, whether any of the G-7 states will dare question the backsliding on democracy and human rights in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I’m guessing they won’t.
Heath: You bet right, Nahal! This guest list is all about Boris Johnson getting the British Empire band back together (with K-Pop cameo). Did you know that British civil servants have a phrase for it: “One Queen, One Team.” Of course, Canada’s already a G-7 member and India and South Africa are republics now, but you get the point. Boris wants to squeeze as many sympathetic countries as possible into the G-7, making it a British wheelhouse rather than an American consultative forum or EU club, helping him assume Churchill’s mantle. Questioning Modi isn’t part of that Playbook. Australia on the other hand is just the right size to kick around for poor climate efforts … just as soon as it signs that U.K. trade deal.
Lau: Beijing has been quite critical of Australia and Japan, which alongside India and the US form the Quad security group. South Korea is the weak link here: a day before G7, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called his counterpart in Seoul and suggested that South Korea “not be led astray.”
Esther Webber, senior U.K. correspondent:
Don’t forget the complicated history of Japan and South Korea. A 2018 South Korean court ruling determined that Mitsubishi should pay reparations to families of forced laborers during World War II, ramping up tensions. Then Japan curbed the export of sensitive materials used in technology manufacturing to South Korea, messing up global supply chains. There’s also a territorial dispute between the two nations that’s getting more attention due to an Olympic map.
What’s next? Boris Johnson might have set up the biggest G7 clash of all: he’s scheduled the closing press conference to coincide with an international soccer match between England and Croatia, which is not the best way to sell foreign policy to the English middle class.
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