Donald Trump says 'considering' hosting G7 at Camp David; world leaders remain diplomatic, but experts call proposal fanciful

Washington: President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he may try to host the annual Group of 7 Summit of world leaders at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, as originally planned before concerns about the coronavirus turned it into a virtual gathering scheduled for next month.

“Now that our Country is ‘Transitioning back to Greatness’, I am considering rescheduling the G-7, on the same or similar date, in Washington, DC, at the legendary Camp David,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “The other members are also beginning their COMEBACK. It would be a great sign to all - normalization!”

 Donald Trump says considering hosting G7 at Camp David; world leaders remain diplomatic, but experts call proposal fanciful

File photo of US president Donald Trump. AP

The United States currently holds the presidency of the group of industrialised nations, which also include Germany, Japan, France, Britain, Canada and Italy.

But given that most international and even diplomatic travel has been on hold for months, Trump’s proposal struck many foreign policy experts as fanciful. World leader summits like the G7 typically involve hundreds of officials, support staff and elaborate security.

Still, Trump is determined to signal a return to normal and resuscitate the battered economy. And initial statements from several G7 members did not rule out the idea of an in-person summit. The virtual meeting is scheduled for 10 to 12 June.

Soon after Trump’s tweet, the White House said in a statement that he had spoken to President Emmanuel Macron of France, and told him, among other things “that the United States looks forward to convening the G7 soon.”

A French diplomatic source said later that Macron “is prepared to travel to Camp David” health conditions permitting, and Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, seemed to be open to the idea.

“Hosting arrangements for the G7 are a matter for the country that holds the current G7 presidency,” a representative for the British government said. “We’re in close contact with the US in the run-up to the summit.”

Holding the summit would underscore Trump’s message that America can now reopen on the assumption that the worst of the coronavirus crisis has passed, even as many public health experts warn that a rush to do that could lead to a new wave of infections.

Until now, the president has focused the effort exclusively on domestic activity. Trump has not left the country since his late-February trip to India and last received foreign dignitaries at the White House in mid-March. The United States also currently maintains bans on flights to the country from Europe and Britain.

Even before the coronavirus derailed plans, organising the summit had become a minor drama for the White House. Trump initially announced in October that he would host the gathering at the Trump National Doral resort near Miami, drawing criticism even from some Republicans that it was inappropriate for him to host a diplomatic event at one of his properties.

Trump subsequently changed the venue to Camp David, a rustic compound that the president, whose tastes are gilded, has privately denigrated.

Mick Mulvaney, his former acting chief of staff, called the location too remote,  a feature that could now be a benefit given the threat of the virus.

While it is unclear how enthusiastic G7 leaders might be about visiting the United States, given its high rates of coronavirus infection and the fact that a White House aide and a presidential valet tested positive for the virus this month, none of its leaders rejected the idea outright.

But one G7 official, speaking on background, said it was “way too soon” to contemplate, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, while more diplomatic, sounded skeptical.

Trudeau told reporters that while it was important for G7 leaders to regularly discuss the restoration of the global economy, determining whether those conversations took place in person or online rested with health experts.

“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,” he said.

Michael Crowley c.2020 The New York Times Company

Updated Date: May 21, 2020 14:48:22 IST

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