U.S. President Donald Trump announced Saturday he is postponing the G7 summit until September and plans to invite four additional non-member nations including Russia.
The president, speaking to reporters aboard an Air Force One flight back to Washington from Kennedy Space Center, said he plans to expand the annual meeting of the world’s most economically advanced nations to include Australia, India, Russia and South Korea, according to a pool report.
“I don’t feel that as a G7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world,” Trump said. “It’s a very outdated group of countries.”
The group included Russia until its membership was suspended in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday declined Trump’s invitation to attend a Washington summit rescheduled for June, citing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“The federal chancellor thanks President Trump for his invitation to the G7 summit at the end of June in Washington. As of today, considering the overall pandemic situation, she cannot agree to her personal participation, to a journey to Washington,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told media.
“She will of course continue to monitor the development of the pandemic.”
Merkel’s refusal to accept Trump’s invitation is the latest in a long line of examples of the difficult relationship between the two leaders. Trump has repeatedly criticized Germany, and Merkel specifically, over issues ranging from Berlin’s trade surplus to its defense spending and commitment to NATO. Merkel has pointedly and publicly taken issue with the Trump administration’s unilateral approach to a range of foreign policy issues, from climate change to the Iran nuclear deal.
In a call between Trump and Merkel this week, the two leaders had heated disagreements on topics including NATO, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, and relations with China, according to a senior U.S. official, who declined to be named. Seibert, the German spokesman, did not respond to a question about whether the conversation was heated.
Merkel’s refusal to attend the summit in person risks scuppering Trump’s attempts to present the gathering as a landmark moment drawing a line under the lockdowns and travel bans imposed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump canceled the summit in March due to the crisis and said he would host a videconference instead. But in a tweet on May 20, he said he might reschedule the summit, proclaiming, “It would be a great sign to all — normalization!”
Trump had indicated he wanted to hold portions of the June gathering in person at the White House and Camp David.
Officials said Merkel’s reluctance to attend the G7 summit was primarily based on the ongoing health situation. But they also said European G7 leaders are concerned that Trump may simply want to use their visit for an election-year photo op, and as a basis for declaring the world is getting back to work — thanks to him.
Officials said that there had been very little of the traditional preparation that precedes the annual G7 summit, including detailed discussion about the agenda, and often intensive negotiation over the drafting of formal conclusions. Those negotiations were expected to be particularly tough given Trump’s divergence from the others on a number of issues, especially trade and climate change.
One official said the lack of preparation had heightened concerns among EU leaders about the potential political drawbacks of traveling to the U.S. — especially if they had not yet had a chance to meet in person in Brussels to discuss their own affairs.
Earlier Saturday, Trump spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss progress on convening the group, according to a White House readout. Macron has said he would be willing to attend the summit.