Our Man in America
Ian Houston is president of the Scottish Business Network (SBN) US in Washington, DC.
10th June 2021
By Ian Houston
The G7 Leaders’ Summit starts Friday in Cornwall, and will snarl traffic and create local logistical challenges. Devon and Cornwall Police and local volunteers will work extra hours, and do a superb job. Does the value of the international gathering outweigh the disruption? I believe this summit has the potential to spark a restored era of diplomacy that will be a light for stability, peace, and cooperation.
Visible in St Ives Bay from across the Carbis Bay Hotel and Estate, where leaders will be gathering, is the Godrevy Lighthouse. Since 1858, the light has been critical to ships navigating the treacherous Stones reef. The global community needs a light to steer by, and that is collaborative multilateral diplomacy.
In recent years certain leaders have acted more like sword-wielding pirates, selfishly enriching themselves off the fear and division they propagated. The prospect of the summit is to rekindle the light of diplomacy which will allow leaders to steer a fleet of vessels forward, and ensure the safety of the passengers and cargo for which they are responsible.
The lead-up to this G7 has been encouraging. The UK, which temporarily holds the G7 presidency, has convened seven Ministerial Tracks with G7 ministers covering economic, environmental, health, trade, technology, humanitarian and international policy. These tracks have been vibrant and have already produced positive public statements. There is a unified thread woven through all the tracks, and that is collective global action to recover from covid 19.
From the start, the Biden administration has actively engaged with international leaders. In April, President Biden convened 40 world leaders to the Leaders’ Summit on Climate. The gathering, alongside returning to the Paris Agreement on climate, immediately sent a message that the United States was recommitted as the United Nations climate summit or COP-26 in Glasgow approaches.
In Cornwall, and afterwards in Brussels with the EU and at a NATO summit, President Biden will communicate that the United States are committed to the transatlantic alliance and diplomacy. A key message is that the USA is not a tempestuous bully driven by ego, but a country that desires to use its standing and resources as a trusted partner to advance policy for the greater global good.
President Biden often quotes Irish writers. The English writer Virginia Woolf, who spent time in Cornwall and even stayed for some period where leaders will be gathered, could be a new writer from whom he and other world leaders pull. She once wrote: “I don't believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one's aspect to the sun.” Her wise principle can apply to the international sphere.
There needs to be a fresh shift of the global community’s aspects to the sun. The possibilities that will result from a restored era of multilateral diplomacy will address many of the vexing issues of our time. The G7 in Cornwall offers a genuine opportunity to rekindle that light of hope, a beacon by which we collectively pilot forward.
Ian Houston is president of the Scottish Business Network (SBN) US in Washington, DC. As a UK/US citizen, he has spent his career representing the diplomatic community, advocating for international engagement, trade, commerce, and global poverty alleviation. He also has a love for Cornwall. These are his personal views.