The de­cline of the Amer­i­can Em­pire?

Cape Breton Post - - Editorial - David John­son David John­son, Ph.D., teaches po­lit­i­cal science at Cape Bre­ton Univer­sity. He can be reached at david_john­son@cbu.ca

The G-7 and G-20 sum­mit meet­ings of world lead­ers for this year are over.

The first group rep­re­sents the heads of gov­ern­ment for the ma­jor demo­cratic and in­dus­trial coun­tries in the world – the United States, Ja­pan, Ger­many, France, Bri­tain, Italy and Canada.

The G-20 is the newer and more di­verse group­ing bring­ing to­gether all the lead­ers of the G-7 as well as the heads of such coun­tries as Rus­sia, China, South Africa, Nige­ria, In­dia, In­done­sia, Aus­tralia, Ar­gentina, Brazil, Saudi Ara­bia and Mex­ico.

Next year Canada plays host to the G-7 meet­ing to be held in Charlevoix, Que. while the G-20 sum­mit will take place in Buenos Aries, Ar­gentina.

As host na­tion for the G-7 meet­ing, Cana­dian prime min­is­ter Justin Trudeau gets to set the agenda for the talks so rest as­sured that the de­vel­op­ment of in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to ad­dress cli­mate change, to pro­mote free and fair trade, to en­cour­age global eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, and to ad­vance the so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic in­ter­ests of women and girls through­out the world will be front and cen­tre of th­ese talks.

The breadth of the fore­go­ing agenda items, com­mon at all such meet­ings, gives rise to the com­plaint that th­ese meet­ings deal with is­sues that are way too gen­eral and ab­stract and that any “agree­ments” be­tween world lead­ers to tackle th­ese is­sues tend to be noth­ing more than “moth­er­hood” state­ments de­signed to al­low lead­ers to re­lease “feel-good” me­dia state­ments.

So, are th­ese sum­mits re­ally worth­while?

Yes, they are.

First off, it’s good for world lead­ers to meet and to talk about th­ese big is­sues than not to meet and not to en­gage in th­ese dis­cus­sions and to share their thoughts, con­cerns and pos­si­ble ways for­ward.

Se­condly, th­ese meet­ings are valu­able in al­low­ing the key po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic lead­ers in the world to meet, to get to know one an­other, and to talk about ma­jor global is­sues and prob­lems fac­ing the en­tire world.

It’s al­ways bet­ter to talk about th­ese mat­ters than not to talk about them, and while it’s maybe naïve to ex­pect all such mem­ber states to de­velop com­mon poli­cies to ad­dress th­ese is­sues, what we can see emerg­ing from th­ese meet­ings are some com­monly per­ceived threats to the in­ter­na­tional sys­tem, some gen­er­ally shared pri­or­i­ties for fu­ture pol­icy ac­tions, and the de­vel­op­ment of al­lied ini­tia­tives to ad­dress world prob­lems.

And through their dis­cus­sions, and the ini­tia­tives na­tions take flow­ing from th­ese meet­ings, we can dis­cern the rise and fall of po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship and in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ence.

At the most re­cent G-20 meet­ing in Ham­burg, Ger­many, 19 of the 20 heads of gov­ern­ment agreed to sup­port the Paris cli­mate change agree­ment. Of course, the one iso­la­tion­ist hold­out was Amer­i­can pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

But Trump can­not stop other na­tions from mov­ing for­ward on moves to curb green­house gas emis­sions and to de­velop cleaner sources of en­ergy and greener economies. Lead­er­ship in th­ese ef­forts is now flow­ing to the Euro­pean Union and Canada, and in­creas­ingly to China and In­dia.

The same holds true for trade pol­icy. While the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion preaches iso­la­tion­ism at home, the Euro­pean Union and China now stand as de­fend­ers of in­ter­na­tional sys­tems of free and fair trade. Canada too will be tested on this front as we en­ter the process of rene­go­ti­at­ing the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment with the United States and Mex­ico be­gin­ning this Au­gust.

Also at Ham­burg, Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel spoke of the im­por­tance of build­ing peace and eco­nomic sta­bil­ity in Africa and the Mid­dle East as a means of curb­ing mass mi­gra­tion as peo­ple flee from war and chaos. This is­sue will dom­i­nate in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions for decades to come.

And again, on this mat­ter, Don­ald Trump shows a lack of lead­er­ship. As we see Amer­ica re­trench into it­self th­ese sum­mit meet­ings trace the de­cline of the Amer­i­can Em­pire.

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