G7 Ministers Seek Deeper Engagement With ‘Global South’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, rear right, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center rear, and other G7 foreign ministers at a meeting in the town of Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, on Tuesday.

Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven leading countries have made clear their stance of strengthening engagement with emerging and developing countries, collectively known as the “Global South.”

The move reflects the need for a wide range of countries to share the importance of the rule of law in order to counter China and Russia in an increasingly divided international context. The issue is expected to become one of the key issues taken up in the G7 summit meeting to be held in Hiroshima in one month.

Two-thirds of talks

Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, who chaired the meeting, made it clear that the G7 countries will continue efforts to strengthen their engagement with countries in the Global South, based on the results of their three-day meeting. He made the statement at a press conference on Tuesday at a hotel in the resort town of Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture.

“We will seek actions from other countries so that members of the entire international community, including the so-called Global South countries, will share the understanding that countries should follow the principles that form the fundamentals of the international order, such as respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Hayashi said.

During a discussion on Sunday, Hayashi also expressed Japan’s intention to strengthen engagement with the Global South during the year of its G7 presidency.

During the three-day meeting, ministers’ discussions mainly focused on measures to support and cooperate with emerging and developing countries, including members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and African countries.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said they spent about two-thirds of the time discussing the issue.

The foreign ministers share a sense of crisis that the world is at a crucial stage in terms of whether it will be able to maintain the international order based on the rule of law because of moves by China and Russia. Although Russia’s invasion of Ukraine strengthened solidarity among G7 members, their influence is limited.

G7 countries’ share of global gross domestic product accounted for nearly 70 percent in 1980s, but the figure has dropped below 50 percent in recent years. Under such circumstances, emerging and developing countries hold the key.

Diverse values

However, it will not be easy for G7 countries to draw to their side emerging and developing countries, as they have been hit hard by the food and energy crisis resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Some countries reportedly express frustration, insisting that the United States and European countries are giving better treatment to Ukraine, which is geographically and culturally closer to them, than to Asian and African countries. In addition, a variety of political systems are used in emerging and developing countries, and some of them detest certain values being forced on them, such as democracy, and are inclined to lean toward China and Russia.

From a different point of view, there is a lot of room for Japan to demonstrate its leadership as a country that gives consideration to individual countries and promotes diplomacy.

Hayashi said during the meeting, “Rather than imposing values on them, it is important to demonstrate the significance of a free and open international order based on the rule of law.” The other ministers concurred.

The foreign meeting’s communique said at the beginning that they will continue to work to “address the needs of the most vulnerable,” clearly with the Global South countries in mind. Taking into account the fact that many countries are in debt to China, the communique also touched on initiatives that would directly benefit emerging countries, such as delivering financing for quality infrastructure and building sustainable food supply chains.

However, there are arguments for and against using the term “Global South,” which is now increasingly used in international conferences.

“For some countries, telling them something like ‘your country belongs to the Global South’ might trigger a divide between industrialized countries and developing countries,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said.

As some G7 members do not use the expression, Japan gave consideration to this by not using the term for session titles nor in the communique.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is considering leveraging G7 unity to promote cooperation with emerging countries. It was with this intention that he invited leading emerging economies, including India and Brazil, to the Hiroshima Summit next month.

During the Golden Week holidays, Kishida will visit Africa whereas Hayashi will travel to Central and South American countries. They plan to listen closely to the challenges they face and their requests in order to apply them in discussions at the summit meeting.