BRUSSELS — The leaders of the world’s leading economies who are meeting in Italy for the annual Group of Seven summit on Friday are set to define gender equality as a human right after the US dropped its opposition, diplomats from a number of G-7 states told BuzzFeed News.
Including a reference to “human rights” in the statement G-7 leaders will sign in Italy would mark an important change of heart by the Trump administration over the course of just a few days.
Earlier this week, diplomatic sources told BuzzFeed News that negotiators from the US involved in drafting the leaders’ statement opposed any wording that would commit the countries to promoting gender equality as human right. The US negotiators argued that framing the issue as a “top priority” was sufficient, the sources said. (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)
The final statement is expected to say “Gender equality is fundamental for the fulfilment of human rights,” a diplomatic source told BuzzFeed News.
The reference to human rights would be a big diplomatic win for Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. His government had been pushing for the wording, and was supported by all G-7 countries except, until a few days ago, the US, the diplomats said.
A senior Canadian government source told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that Canada had won the argument and the human rights language was going in the draft text. A diplomat from a second G-7 country also confirmed the change early Friday morning.
The statement is still a draft, and the various positions and exact wording may change when the seven leaders meet in the Sicilian town of Taormina.
Two diplomats who were involved in various phases of the drafting process said they were under the impression that the White House’s gender equality brief was being led by Ivanka Trump, an adviser to the US president (and also his daughter), and the final word on America’s stance on the issue would be hers.
The diplomats added that they were expecting President Trump to push the other six governments during the G-7 summit to commit support for a women’s entrepreneurship fund.
One of the diplomatic sources said the fund’s place in the G-7 process had put governments in an awkward position. On the one hand, the governments are mindful they have to tread carefully: They do not want to upset Trump. But at the same time, some diplomats feel the US has tried to crowbar the fund onto the G-7 agenda, and noted a certain paradox in an administration that was pushing the initiative so forcefully while cutting crucial aid funding.
Talks leading up to the summit have been fraught with frustration. US negotiators insisted on checking even the smallest of details with the White House, including around a roadmap for a gender-responsive economic environment — which the host Italy is hoping the other six countries will adopt — as well as on issues that had been settled during working groups or at a ministerial level by members of Trump’s cabinet, the diplomatic sources said.
Meanwhile, The US is expected to block references in the leaders’ statement to a “multilateral trading system,” raising alarm among governments that Trump could put into question the shared rules of global trade — as well as long-held US positions.
One senior European official told BuzzFeed News their government had rather low expectations as far as the US position on multilateral questions like trade and climate was concerned, and wasn’t expecting the US to change its position significantly at the G-7 summit.