The Group of Seven major industrial nations, long the standard-bearer for free markets and democracy and a leader on the global stage, is in danger of splintering. This is a crisis that threatens to create a vacuum in global governance.
Talks at this year's summit, held in Charlevoix, Canada, on June 8 and 9, were marked by more confusion than at any previous meeting and only deepened the rift between the U.S., which is aggressively pushing for radical protectionism, and Europe and Canada, which are urging Washington to shift course.
U.S. President Donald Trump, after leaving Canada for his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, showed his utter disregard for the G-7 by tweeting that he did not endorse the joint communique that the leaders worked so hard to craft. At no point did he express contrition about arriving late to the summit's first session or leaving the venue early. This behavior is unacceptable.
The G-7, an alliance of major democratic states that share the same fundamental values, has been crucial for world stability. Efforts by Japan, the U.S. and Europe to build a system of consensus-building in the international community have been hugely significant, even as the rise of emerging economies lessens their influence.
A breakup of the G-7 could make it harder to tackle such international challenges as financial crises and terrorism, and make it easier for China and Russia, both led by strong-arm leaders, to upend the existing world order. Washington should understand that such a scenario would go against America's interests, too.
Above all else, the Trump administration must correct its policy course. We hope Washington reins in its inward-looking policies -- protectionist trade measures and restrictions on immigration, to name two -- and mends fences with friends, allies and international organizations.
The proximate cause of the G-7 rift is the hefty tariffs the U.S. placed on imported steel and aluminum. The Trump administration should immediately scrap the duties to avert the trade war that is brewing with America's major trading partners.
Japan, Canada and the European states must not relent in urging the U.S. to recognize the significance of the G-7. For the sake of global stability, they should also keep alive the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, the Paris agreement on climate change and the Iran nuclear deal -- even though Trump has pulled the U.S. out of each one.
At the Charlevoix summit, Trump called for Russia to be reinstated to the group, drawing an angry backlash from other G-7 leaders. There is little reason to readmit Russia to the fold, considering that the country, which was removed from the then-Group of Eight after its annexation of Crimea in 2014, has been involved in a number of international problems.
On June 9 and 10, leaders from the eight member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, including China and Russia, gathered for their annual summit in the Chinese port city of Qingdao. The solidarity those leaders reportedly showed was reminiscent of the close ties that once existed among the G-7. Deepening the contrast with the events in Charlevoix was their pledge to take a stand against the spread of protectionist trade practices.
It is ironic that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin behaved like standard-bearers for free trade at that international meeting. It would be tragic indeed if the G-7 remains adrift while a grouping of authoritarian states takes its place.