What is the G7?
In the 1970s, the world wasn’t in the best shape. Oil prices were at record highs, and the global economy as a whole was in a state of crisis. As economic growth slowed from decades prior, many of the world’s most industrial countries were left unsure how to fix these problems, or how to move forward.
In 1975, in response to these economic woes, six of the world’s superpowers decided to sit down and talk through some of these problems, focusing both on resolving member issues, and also providing mutual economic encouragement. Known as the Group of Six summit, the countries invited were the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, West Germany, Japan, and France, at the time the richest industrialized countries.
The following year, the same six countries met once again, though this time Canada was added to the group, becoming the Group of Seven or G7. The meeting has been carried out every year since then.
In 1998, Russia would join the group, forming the G8. However, following Russia’s March, 2014, annexation of Crimea, the nation was suspended from the group. Russia has since announced their decision to permanently leave the group, so for now, it remains the Group of Seven.
It is also worth noting that the European Union, while not an official member, does currently have representation at G7 meetings.
Why Were These Countries Included?
The countries included in those initial G7 meetings saw themselves as the most powerful economies in the world. The US, UK, France, and Canada, had all been longtime allies, going back to World War I. While West Germany, Italy, and Japan, didn’t necessarily have a long history of cooperation with the others, they had rebounded from World War II to become important players in the global economy. By the mid-1970s, they shared many of the same economic interests and goals.
These seven nations would create strong relationships with one another, and sought to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems together. Over the past 40 years, however, a lot has changed. China, for example, now boasts the world’s second largest economy, and has one of the largest populations. This has led some to claim that the G7 exists to protect an old world order. Today, the G7 has been met with pressure to start allowing other influential and emerging countries to join their group.
What Does The G7 Meet About?
In the early days of the G7, the meetings were primarily focused on economic issues. As the world has changed, however, so have the conversations around it.
In the 1980s, the G7 added foreign and security topics into the mix, including discussions about wars, like those in Afghanistan and Iraq. Today, topics at these summits often change year to year, depending on what pressing issues seem to be happening in the world at that time.
The Group of Seven will hold their yearly meeting in various places, depending on what country holds the presidency in the group, which changes over time. The G7 has no administrative structure, making this a relatively informal group with no real power to make formal resolutions. Despite that, there is no denying the strong influence these seven countries wield. If they want something done, they often have the power to make it a reality.
What will happen at this year’s G7 summit? Only time will tell. But at least when someone asks, “what is the G7 summit?”, you will know how to answer.
Mark Heald is an Associate Product Manager and Sporcle Admin. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.