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Donald Trump hadn’t talked to other world leaders about his idea to host June’s G7 Summit in person when he started tweeting about it, senior officials from two participating governments told BuzzFeed News.
“Now that our Country is ‘Transitioning back to Greatness’, I am considering rescheduling the G-7, on the same or similar date, in Washington, D.C., at the legendary Camp David,” Trump posted Wednesday. “The other members are also beginning their COMEBACK. It would be a great sign to all - normalization!”
Short for “Group of Seven,” the G7 is a yearly meetup of leaders from the world’s most advanced economies — the US, Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Japan, and Canada. The US is this year’s host.
After his tweet on Wednesday, the president later told reporters that the gathering would "primarily" take place at the White House and "there could be a piece of it at Camp David." Either way, it would mean an in-person gathering at a time when each country is tiptoeing out of coronavirus lockdowns, with strict social distancing measures — and restrictions on international travel — likely to still be in place.
It is an “awkward proposition to deal with,” one of the government officials told BuzzFeed News. The other official said that privately, “the initial reception to the idea among Europeans had been cold — but they cannot immediately reject it.”
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In public, each country has responded diplomatically.
Reuters quoted a French official saying that President Emmanuel Macron was open to traveling to the US for the meeting — if the COVID-19 situation allows.
Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau told reporters, “We’ll certainly take a look at what the US is proposing as host of the G7 to see what kind of measures will be in place to keep people safe.”
The UK struck a similar tone. At a daily briefing this week, the prime minister's official spokesperson said: "In the event of any travel, the PM would follow the guidelines at the time."
"We are in close contact with the US in the run-up to the summit," the spokesperson added. "We will need to look at the details of what the US are proposing.”
The meeting of G7 leaders was originally scheduled for June 10–12 at Camp David in Maryland, but when the outbreak took hold it was moved to a virtual setting. Trump had originally proposed holding the event at his luxury Doral resort in Florida.
Preparatory meetings ahead of the summit have been held via video conference, and the seven governments have at times struggled to find a consensus. In March, the Trump administration wanted foreign ministers to sign up to a joint statement calling the coronavirus “the Wuhan virus.” The six other governments rejected the proposal.
Holding the summit in person in just a few weeks would involve organizing travel and security arrangements for dozens of officials, diplomats and support staff from each country. Governments would have to make those arrangements even as many borders around the world remain shut, and most of the world’s airplanes remain grounded.
It is not the first time that Trump has surprised his allies with major moves or announcements without talking to them first. BuzzFeed News reported earlier this year that the US didn't warn Britain or its other European allies ahead of the airstrike that killed Iran's top military commander, Qassem Soleimani. Trump also didn't consult with European leaders before introducing a coronavirus travel ban in mid-March.