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Tackling Tech at the Upcoming G7 Summit
The G7 leaders summit is this week, May 19 to May 21. Here's what to know about its expected focus on technology.
The annual meeting of the G7, or International Group of Seven, countries’ leaders is coming up this week: Friday, May 19 to Sunday, May 21. Japan, which currently holds the G7 presidency, is hosting the gathering of international leaders in Hiroshima. Here’s what to know about the G7’s expected discussion of technology and geopolitics issues, including cross-border data flows, artificial intelligence, and China. Brought to you by Global Cyber Strategies, a Washington, DC-based research and advisory firm.
Across issues areas from climate to economic security, China and its technological influence is likely to be a focal point of discussion — as well as talk of cross-border data flows, artificial intelligence, and how to frame 21st century tech competition.
G7 2023: What’s in Store?
The G7 members are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The European Union also participates in G7 discussions, but as a guest, not a formal member — represented by the European Council’s president and the European Commission’s president.
This year’s summit has two main “perspectives,” per the Japanese government:
Upholding the international order based on the rule of law
Outreach to the Global South
It will also have seven core issues areas:
Regional affairs — including Russia’s war on Ukraine, sanctions against Russia, and the goal of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”
Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation — including advancing “realistic and practical efforts” to move the world from a “harsh security environment” reality to an “ideal” state of affairs without nuclear weapons.
Economic resilience and economic security — including resilient supply chains, non-market policies, and economic coercion.
Climate and energy — including the Paris Agreement’s net-zero by 2050 goal and pathways towards resilient national and international energy transitions.
Food — including ensuring access to affordable, safe, nutritious food for all.
Health — including strengthening the global health architecture and improving future pandemic preparedness and response.
Development — including supporting vulnerable people left behind in crisis and the concepts of “human security” and human-centric development.
The Japanese government adds that “areas such as Gender, Human Rights, Digitalization, and Science and Technology will also be highlighted.”
Across these topics, the Chinese government is likely to remain a key point of discussion for G7 leaders. Reuters reports that G7 officials will discuss China’s “economic coercion” in their larger joint statement to be released at the summit. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida clearly has a similar country in mind when discussing the importance of the G7 and of strengthening the international order. “Today’s Ukraine could be tomorrow’s East Asia,” Kishida said recently. G7 finance leaders that met ahead of the full G7 summit reportedly discussed containing inflation and strengthening supply chains — but did not explicitly mention China.
Additionally, despite the use of the phrase “Global South” on the G7 summit website, Japanese officials told the Japan Times that leaders are expected to not use “Global South” in their joint communique. Doing so could appear, sources told the paper, to be lumping together countries with very different circumstances. The G7 and EU will also reportedly ban the resumption of Russian pipeline gas exports, among many other action items and statements to follow the meeting.
Pressing Tech Issues at the G7
The key international technology issues that could arise at the G7 include:
Artificial intelligence — The recent explosion of ChatGPT among the public, plus the media’s persistent hyping of the technology, have spurred a flurry of policy and regulatory debates in the US, EU, and elsewhere. In mid-April, for example, members of European Parliament updated draft AI legislation to include copyright protection concerns associated with generative AI. Meanwhile, in late April, Yokosuka City in Japan began using ChatGPT to assist with administrative tasks. Digital ministers from the G7 countries, meeting on April 30 ahead of the full summit this week, agreed that countries need “risk-based” regulation of AI and should “preserve an open and enabling environment” for developing AI technologies. (That statement is typically vague coming from this level of government; what it means remains to be seen.)
China — Almost every time US policymakers today speak about technology in the international context, they mention China. That might be the Chinese private sector; that might be Chinese universities; that might be the government in Beijing and the relationships it has with companies and academia. Nonetheless, observers should expect the G7 summit to heavily focus on China when discussing tech issues, including around AI development, technological supply chains, data privacy, and cybersecurity. Japan has shared many of the US’ concerns about China, tech, and security over the past few years, sometimes before the US was paying real attention. But that has not always extended to Europe; notably, some European countries took a while to get on board with US concerns about Chinese telecom Huawei and the espionage risks of using its 5G equipment. How France, Germany, Italy, and the UK, as well as the EU, react to likely US mentions of Chinese cyber espionage, cyber capacity-building, and more will greatly shape the public statements and paths forward resulting from the summit.
Data — G7 members are likely to discuss cross-border data flows and balancing openness, privacy, and security. At the 2019 summit for the G20 (a larger group of countries), which met in Osaka, Japan, the Japanese government formally introduced the idea of “Data Free Flow with Trust.” The declaration that followed talked about promoting open data flows on the internet while also creating appropriate guardrails. If it sounds vague, that’s because it was — and it wasn’t clear what those words would mean in practice. India also refused to sign on in 2019; based on comments by its Minister of Commerce and Industry, New Delhi thought it did not reflect the digital divide and did not align with India’s views on controlling data flows. That debate has persisted for years and is likely to come up at the G7 this week, ahead of the 2023 G20 (led by India in New Delhi this September). In particular, the countries may want to agree on a framing of the issue to take to others in the fall — such as promoting internet openness and data flows generally, while recognizing the need to place some narrow restrictions on data flows or data collection for privacy and national security purposes. Meanwhile, fractures persist within the G7 bloc: the US still has no national, comprehensive privacy law, and the US and EU continue to have debates about US-EU data transfers and the oversight of US foreign intelligence programs.
Many other possible discussion points abound, including semiconductors, supply chain resiliency, and helping to empower digitalization in countries with limited economic resources. The 10-page declaration from G7 digital ministers released on April 30 describes numerous other topics, too. That includes “facilitation of cross-border data flows and data free flow with trust,” “secure and resilient digital infrastructure,” “internet governance,” “emerging and disruptive technologies in innovating society and economy,” and “digital competition.” It is likely the “Global South” point raised by Japanese officials will be raised in the technology context as well. The Biden administration has been committed to framing its international tech engagements under the banner of “techno-democracy,” but it has not always resonated with other countries. Reassessing that framing could be a discussion point.
The exact language used in G7 read-outs is almost always high-level and sometimes quite vague. Yet, it will still provide important insights into the strategic direction this major bloc of countries is publicly taking on technology going forward.
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