Canada hopes G7 summit serves as springboard for new ideas

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OTTAWA — Canada hopes the upcoming G7 summit it is hosting will serve as a springboard for fresh ideas on key issues including climate change, the global economy and security, the lead organizer told AFP.

"The G7 serves well as a proving or testing ground for discussions that could eventually go into the G20 or the United Nations or international financial institutions," Peter Boehm, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's G7 representative, said in an interview with AFP.

"The beauty of these summits is that there is informal dialogue between leaders," said Boehm, who has participated in several past summits.

Canada assumed the G7 presidency at the start of January and will host the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States in the picturesque resort village of La Malbaie on the shores of the Saint Lawrence River from June 8-9.

The agenda for the 44th Group of Seven industrialized nations summit includes advancing gender equality and women's empowerment, the implementation of the Paris climate agreement, and the global economy.

Boehm said the discussion on climate change will "inevitably include energy and renewable forms of energy" and "more broadly the resilience of coastal communities."

"We've seen a very bad hurricane season," he noted. "Many of the islands affected by these terrible hurricanes have lost their tourism economies."

Protectionism and trade tensions between the major powers will also be a hot topic, Boehm said.

US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and his insistence on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are likely to come up again, after fueling tensions at the last summit in Italy.

And the topic of gender equality will thread through the entire summit, after allegations of sexual harassment and abuse against now-disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein prompted hundreds of women to speak out on sexual misconduct by powerful men.

Under the Italian presidency, the G7 established a "road map" for gender equality. "The issue of gender equality is one of the key themes of our presidency and in fact it is an overarching or transversal theme that we will be looking at when we discuss economic and financial issues, peace security issues, environmental issues and the like," Boehm said.

"We will be looking at everything through the gender equality lense."

G7 summits — and those of the G8 before Russia was kicked out of the group over its annexation of Crimea — are routinely decried as increasingly irrelevant and have been marred by violent protests. But Boehm rejects such criticism, saying: "There is value in (the meetings) and I think the leaders see that."

The G7 nations' "shared basic values" are often crucial in finding common ground, he said, noting that "decisions are taken by consensus."

Organizers are bracing for angry protests after the "rather violent protests for the G20 last August" in Germany, Boehm said. Federal and Quebec provincial police as well as the military will provide security. "Peaceful protests will be allowed as close as possible to where the leaders are," Boehm said. — AFP


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