G7 leaders in Japan smarting from domestic battles

The leaders of the Group of Seven countries in Ise-Shima for the annual G7 summit are not all in the best of political health.

With one exception in Canada's Justin Trudeau, they are facing severe pressure on the home front, while the biggest player at the meeting - US President Barack Obama - is nearing the end of his period in office.

US: This is Obama's last G7 summit, and ahead of the NATO and G20 gatherings, one of the last summits of his presidency. He is trying to burnish a legacy that looks decidedly mixed from a foreign policy perspective. The US economy may be in relatively good condition, but Obama will face nervous questions on the implications of a possible Donald Trump presidency.

Japan: The host, Shinzo Abe, is facing an economy that is refusing to respond to massive quantitative easing and negative interest rates. To add to the pressure, he faces a general election in July. He is hoping to agree on a global stimulus programme at the summit, but Japan's G7 partners are not cooperating, with Germany in particular sceptical of the expansive fiscal and monetary policies that go by the name of "Abenomics."

Germany: After more than 10 years in office, Chancellor Angela Merkel has seldom appeared at a G7 summit as impacted by domestic events as now. The Europe-wide refugee crisis has seen her popularity ratings plummet, along with those of her Christian Democratic Union.

France: Just one year from elections, President Francois Hollande is under severe pressure domestically. His Socialist Party is divided over labour market reforms that are bringing trade unions, pupils and students onto the streets. Hollande is facing a strong challenge from the far-right National Front, as unemployment levels remain high.

Britain: Brexit is the dominant issue facing David Cameron, with the referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union less than a month away and the outcome far from clear. His political agenda for the year was dismissed last week as "lacklustre" and "vague." Cameron will be looking for G7 backing for his campaign to keep Britain in the EU in the face of strong anti-EU sentiment in his Conservative Party. He is thought unlikely to survive for long in the event of a negative vote in the referendum.

Italy: Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has recently scored a domestic political victory with parliament passing a controversial bill to legalize homosexual partnerships that had his backing. But he is battling huge problems linked to Italy's national debt and the flow of refugees across the Mediterranean from Africa.

Canada: Trudeau is the newcomer. The 44-year-old prime minister is taking his first trip abroad since being elected late last year. His attractive and youthful appearance, along with his reputation as a doer, have also made him popular beyond Canadian borders. Many see him a welcome contrast to the populist figures on the rise elsewhere.

Last update: Thu, 26/05/2016 - 09:59

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