Peter Boehm, Deputy Minister for the G7 Summit and personal representative of the Prime Minister, speaks at a Canadian International Council event in Ottawa on Thursday, May 10, 2018. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

Questions about G7’s future force Canada’s sherpa to face ‘6 plus 1’ scenario

Trump’s potential to disrupt the summit is growing ever larger

Less than a month before Donald Trump sets foot on Canadian soil for the G7, Justin Trudeau’s chief summit organizer is being forced to defend the viability of the G7 itself.

Trump’s potential to disrupt the summit — an international meeting in which the prime minister has invested significant political capital — is growing larger by the day as his June 8 arrival date in La Malbaie, Que., creeps closer.

Trudeau and his fellow summiteers from Britain, France, Germany and the European Union have already expressed their regrets over Trump’s decision this past week to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear agreement.

Trump was already a G7 outlier on trade and climate change. But now there’s growing concern that the group itself could fatally fracture, with the U.S. splintering off. The ambassadors from several G7 countries to Canada were forced to address that recently.

Peter Boehm, Canada’s G7 sherpa, was also confronted with the issue this past week during an unusually tough question-and-answer session at a gathering in Ottawa.

“Are we into a six-plus-one dynamic?” asked Sandelle Scrimshaw, a former foreign service colleague of Boehm’s during a keynote dinner appearance of the Canadian International Council in Ottawa.

The 63-year-old career diplomat offered a careful, measured reply, but he left open the possibility that the G7, which runs on a consensus basis, simply wouldn’t be able to reach one next month.

“If leaders were to agree on everything, there wouldn’t be a point in having these meetings,” said Boehm.

“You try to work out the consensus, and if there isn’t a consensus there, it’s clear that you state the obvious … that we don’t have unanimity on a particular issue.”

That would mark a repeat of Trump’s disruptive debut at last year’s G7 in Italy — his first foray onto the world of multilateral diplomacy. There was no common ground to be found on climate change.

The leaders’ 2017 final communique was accompanied by a footnote that said the U.S. would not join the other G7 countries in reaffirming their commitment to the Paris climate agreement, which Trump also abandoned.

Boehm said there has been careful planning and consulting among his fellow G7 sherpas to ensure a smoother, more successful outcome this time.

“The sherpas are in contact all the time. I have a very good relationship with all of them and we have each other’s backs because we’re in this together.”

Disagreements among leaders are nothing new, Boehm explained.

In fact, the format for their talks will encourage that. They’ll sit alone at a round table and face off with their sherpas sitting behind to take notes and offer advice.

Having new leaders in the room only increases the possibility for disagreement, he added.

“Last year, there were four new leaders at the table. In my experience, I’ve seen that leaders will come in, they will be a little bit skeptical because they have not done this before and ultimately they see some value in having a frank discussion.”

Canada’s frank talk will centre on one important theme, Boehm said: the fact that the country needs the international rules-based system to succeed despite the threats it may face.

At the heart of the agenda that Boehm and his fellow sherpas are carefully crafting is how to widen the benefits of the global economy to reach more people — especially those who feel left out and are feeling a pull towards populist anger.

“Related to that, of course, is our need to work together, and by that I really mean work together to strengthen the rules-based trading system, and encourage free and fair trade. For us, in Canada, the global trade file is of primordial importance.”

When the leaders take their places at their round meeting table, they will negotiate — but not in the winner-take-all, ‘Art of the Deal’ bare-knuckle bartering style that has been associated with Trump.

“In order to negotiate effectively, you have to give something up. It’s identifying that bit that you can give up — that little bit of sovereignty that you might lose, and realize that it is for the greater good and for unanimity,” said Boehm.

“We all chip away at that.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Moose Hide campaign takes message to Canadian schools

Campaign launches new K-12 education platform

Lost wedding ring found on Valentine’s Day

Dan Milbrath’s ring is back where it belongs

Victoria installation for the blind causes problems for those with mobility issues

The truncated domes installed at Blanshard and Fort streets aren’t helpful for everyone

Fire destroys South Island Concrete building in Sooke

No injuries resulted from large structure fire

Funds being raised for double-amputee Ecuadorean dancer

North Saanich woman is putting out collection jars if people would like to donate

‘Just like Iron Man’: Calgary surgeon undergoes experimental spinal surgery

Dr. Richi Gill was in a freak accident on a boogie board during a family vacation in Hawaii

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for public inquiry over SNC-Lavalin questions

Vancouver member of Parliament Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet last week

Canadian airlines waiting for guidance from Ottawa over X gender option

Major U.S. airlines said they will change their process so passengers can identify themselves along non-binary lines

‘Violent’ B.C. man wanted on Canada-wide warrant

Prince George man with ties to Vernon sought by police

Homicide police investigate assault turned deadly in Surrey

60-year-old man died at hospital after assault

Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

Butts categorically denies the accusation that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould

Deported B.C. man who came to Canada as a baby granted chance at return

Len Van Heest was deported to the Netherlands in 2017

A Mother’s Wish: Ryan Shtuka’s mother wants her son to be ‘forever known’

‍‍‍‍‍“Let me tell you a story …. it all began with a boy named Ryan”

Most Read