WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters he will delay the annual G-7 summit until fall, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel declined an invitation to travel to Washington in late June due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The president said aboard Air Force One he believes the Group of Seven — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — has become an “outdated” organization of wealthy industrialized nations that does not represent the world at large, and he plans to invite non-members Australia, India, Russia and South Korea for a discussion at their next meeting to focus on China’s future.
His suggestion of Russia’s inclusion is likely to irritate other leaders. Trump, whose aggravations towards other members have made him the odd man out at previous G-7 gatherings, has repeatedly pushed for the international organization to reinstate Russia, which was expelled in 2014 after its annexation of Crimea.
Trump said the meeting might be timed to coincide with the annual meeting in late September of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, according to a pool report of his remarks to journalists traveling with him aboard Air Force One on his return from the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
Alternatively, he said, the next G-7 annual meeting might be held sometime after the U.S. presidential election in November, when Trump hopes to prevail over challenger Joe Biden. The U.S. holds the revolving G-7 presidency this year; France had it in 2019 and the U.K. will have it in 2021.
“I’m postponing it because I don’t feel that as a G-7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world,” Trump was quoted as saying. “It’s a very outdated group of countries.”
‘She cannot agree’
His remarks to journalists came a day after Merkel said she “cannot confirm” she would accept Trump’s invitation to attend a G-7 meeting in late June, since the risks from the coronavirus pandemic had not subsided.
“The federal chancellor thanks President Trump for his invitation to the G-7 summit at the end of June in Washington,” her spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, told Politico on Friday. “As of today, considering the overall pandemic situation, she cannot agree to her personal participation, to a journey to Washington.”
Trump had asked world leaders to join him at the Camp David presidential retreat in rural Maryland, outside Washington. That might have helped Trump to spread a misleading impression that he has gotten the pandemic under control in the U.S. Plans to hold the summit by videoconference also were canceled.
Last year, Trump drew widespread criticism, even from some other G-7 leaders, after his acting chief of staff announced plans to award the summit to Trump’s private golf resort in Florida.
At first, he shrugged off the self-dealing aspects and legal consequences of using his public office to award a huge government contract to Trump National Doral Miami, which he owns. Then he reversed the decision.