A Guide to the G-7 Communique, How It's Done and Why It Matters

(Bloomberg) -- Every Group of Something summit since 1975 has ended with some sort of final statement or recap, a document that’s always carefully parsed for geopolitical clues.

After an acrimonious buildup to this weekend’s G-7 meeting in Quebec, there’ll likely be even more scrutiny than usual. John Kirton, director of the University of Toronto’s G-7 Research Group, walked Bloomberg News through the process by which communiques are assembled and released -- and some possible outcomes on Saturday.

1. The Consensus View

The best outcome is a communique covering all subjects and agreed to by all seven countries. As host nation, Canada holds the pen; but each clause and comma will have been debated and approved.

In some areas there’s already enough agreement for a draft statement. But on the most contentious issue, trade, there’s still plenty of daylight between G-7 members, and few signs the gap is narrowing. U.S. President Donald Trump’s Twitter musings on his way to Quebec suggest the opposite.

2. Communique Lite

Another outcome, which isn’t uncommon, is a communique that amicably acknowledges differences and/or recognizes that “national circumstances” lead some members to adopt diverging policies. Examples include:

  • The Toronto summit in 2010, when advanced economies signed up to deficit-cutting goals separately from the rest
  • The Taormina, Italy summit in 2017, when the U.S. split on climate and the others said they were “understanding of the process”.

French President Emmanuel Macron has already hinted that something similar could happen in Quebec, leading to a statement that excludes the U.S. But ultimately, as long as some sort of communique is released, it will show a degree of consensus.

3. Chair’s Statement

If unity proves elusive, a Plan B is for the formal communique to be replaced with a chair’s statement -- which in this case would come from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The benefit is that the chair has discretion on what to include and (more importantly) exclude. As long as there’s some semblance of harmony, this could be a measure of success.

4. Uh-oh!

The worst-case scenario is no communique, coupled with a summary of events from Trudeau that other leaders publicly dispute -- an outcome that would leave the group more divided than they were at the start. “The ultimate disaster is the Americans standing up to say ‘Justin lied’,” said Kirton.

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