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From G7 to D10?

From June 11 to 13, the 2021 G7 Summit will gather at Carbis Bay in Cornwall, United Kingdom (UK). This year the seven member countries— the United States (US), Japan, Canada, UK, France, Germany, and Italy—will be joined by guest counties Australia, India, South Korea, and South Africa. The presence of three Indo-Pacific powers is particularly relevant. Indeed, in recent times, there has been much talk about the possible creation of a so-called D10. The idea, floated by UK prime minister Boris Johnson in May 2020, would expand the G7 into a larger group, including Australia, India, and South Korea.

According to Johnson, the D10—an abbreviation of ‘Democratic 10’—should be a group of leading democracies established to cooperate on 5G and supply chains matters. But given the increasingly confrontational rhetoric between China and the West, the group is touted more broadly as a possibility for ‘democratic’ countries to team up in confronting Beijing’s assertive behaviours.

The G7 was established in 1975 to coordinate policy between the largest and most advanced democracies. However, since then the world balance of power has changed dramatically. As such, it would make sense to reform the organization. All G7 countries, bar Japan, belong to the Euro-Atlantic area. While this may have been logical in the 1970s, growing power in the Indo-Pacific region has altered foreign policy dynamics globally. Economically speaking, while the G7 countries once comprised around 70 percent of global nominal GDP, today the figure is much lower -- at around 50 percent -- due to the eastward turn of the global economy. Since the 2008 global financial crisis, the G7 has been superseded by the G20 as the meeting in which to discuss international economic affairs. G20 countries now represent around 80 percent of world GDP. From a geopolitical standpoint, despite the ever-present tensions between Russia and the West, it is the Indo-Pacific that is becoming the theatre of growing contestations.

Therefore, it seems sensible to include the three leading Indo-Pacific democracies in what would become the top forum for the world’s major democratic countries. In this way, the G7 would admit three influential countries, expanding its global outreach. The presence of India would bring an influential country, which is also on its way to become the world's biggest country by population. Following Since its recent clashes with China, New Delhi is likely to welcome closer ties with the US and the others. Australia is a confident middle-power, as shown by its posture in the quarrels with Beijing over pandemic origin. South Korea, meanwhile, is considered a success story in managing the COVID-19 pandemic, and its soft power, the result of efforts to invest in and export its own forms of popular culture, has been steadily increasing in recent years, spreading around the globe.

Cornwall’s G7 may be the moment when the new group starts to cooperate more closely. Its initial focus would be on 5G issues and supply chain vulnerabilities: areas in which there are growing tensions between China and the ten democracies. However, in the years ahead, the suggested forum may be well positioned to assume a leading role in orienting approaches to a number of global challenges, such as climate change, pandemic prevention and preparedness, the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moreover, the D10 summit appears to figure as an ideal coalition for members to negotiate their fractious relationship with Beijing. From economic coercion to human rights abuses, the D10 could be the ‘democratic’ counterweight to China’s own assertive actions. The gathering may become an occasion in which members could coordinate their policy toward China, adopting joint actions, as in the case of the Xinjiang related sanctions approved against Chinese officials by the European Union (EU), UK, US, and Canada. In the economic sphere, the D10 could serve to adopt common responses to withstand economic pressure from China.

Furthermore, this body may be ideologically advantageous for each country in the G7. For the US, the D10 is in line with President Biden’s vision of a front of democratic nations to cope with growing authoritarianism. For the three EU members, the inclusion of India, Australia, and South Korea would allow them to expand their influence in the Indo-Pacific region, coherent with the EU’s growing focus on the area. The new format would also be attractive for Canada, and particularly Japan, because it would reduce the Eurocentric focus of the G7. For the UK, the proposal of a forum that would convene the world’s major democracies serves to shore up Britain’s post-Brexit soft-power ambitions of re-animating a ‘Global Britain’ and advance Britain’s Indo-Pacific turn. Yet, the plan will almost certainly be criticised by Beijing and Moscow as divisive and reminiscent of Cold War era international relations. The D10 fails to integrate any nations from South America or Africa.

As the Indo-Pacific is becoming increasingly important in geopolitical and economic terms, it is impossible for an institution with global ambitions, such as the G7, to claim a major role without significant membership from the region. Not even the G20 or the UN Security Council can play this role. The former, notwithstanding its economic influence, is too disparate in its membership, and it is focused on purely economic matters. The latter, on the other hand, is continuously blocked by vetoes. The D10 conversely, due to its small size and coherence among members, could be an excellent forum to try to revamp multilateral cooperation.


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