U.S. President Donald Trump has drawn particular attention at the Group of Seven (G-7) summit meeting that kicks off on May 26. His first time at the G-7 table could alter the conference that has been held annually for more than four decades.
The G-7 countries have led the world with shared values such as freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, and the United States has played a leading role in that framework.
However, Trump, who has pursued what he calls an "America First" policy, has shown himself ready and willing to hobble free trade to protect domestic U.S. industries, ban entry into the country by people from certain Muslim-majority countries, and is attempting to erect a barrier along the U.S. border with Mexico.
When launched, the combined GDP of all the G-7 countries accounted for about 70 percent of the world total.
The G-7 now places emphasis on sharing universal values as its relative economic might declines with the emergence of economies such as China's. Under the leadership of President Trump, who has shown no regard for sharing universal values, the United States could damage the G-7's raison d'etre.
Some senior Trump administration officials are beginning to raise questions about the relevance of the G-7 as it does not include China and Russia.
Chinese and Russian cooperation is indispensable for resolving international problems, such as those involving Syria and North Korea. However, there are some reasons why the G-7 has distanced itself from China and Russia.
At one point, the G-7 became the G-8 with the inclusion of Russia, which had begun efforts toward democratization following the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, the G-7 expelled Russia after Moscow unilaterally annexed the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine in 2014 in violation of international law. China is under one-party rule by the Chinese Communist Party and has no free elections.
It would be out of the question for the U.S. to attempt to shift the G-7 into a new framework by including China and Russia. China and Russia are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) along with the U.S., Britain and France. There is no point in creating another body similar to the UNSC.
The G-7 has served as a significant foothold for Japan to participate in international politics led by European and North American countries. If the nature of the G-7 were to change, Japan could not afford to overlook it.
The G-7 is required to play a leading role in preventing anti-globalism generated by widening economic disparity, and searching for a solution based on international cooperation.
Questions remain as to how Trump's America should be integrated into the G-7 or else whether the U.S. will alter the nature of the G-7. This year's summit will serve as a litmus test.