U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he is considering holding an in-person meeting in the U.S. with the leaders of the world's major economies after all because it would be a “great sign to all” of things returning to normal during the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump had scheduled the Group of Seven (G7) summit for June 10-12 at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. But in March, he announced he was canceling the annual meeting because of the pandemic and that the leaders would confer by video conference instead.
But Trump has recently been making an aggressive push to see the U.S. economy humming again after many businesses were closed to help slow the virus.
“Now that our Country is ‘Transitioning back to Greatness,’ I am considering rescheduling the G7, on the same or similar date, in Washington, D.C., at the legendary Camp David,” Trump tweeted. “The other members are also beginning their COMEBACK. It would be a great sign to all - normalization!”
It was not immediately clear how such a meeting could be arranged so quickly.
Shortly after Trump's remarks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel dodged questions as to whether she would attend an upcoming G7 summit in person.
Merkel said that "no matter whether in the form of a videoconference or otherwise, I will definitely fight for multilateralism," and later added that she had "said what (she) wanted to say" and had "chosen (her) words carefully."
Formal White House preparations for the summit were halted two months ago when the summit was called off. And the Trump administration has maintained travel restrictions and quarantine requirements for travelers from Europe, home to four of the G7 nations. And earlier this week the U.S. and Canada agreed to keep their shared border closed to nonessential travel through June 21.
The District of Columbia remains under stay-at-home orders at least through June 8, though Maryland began relaxing stay-at-home restrictions last week. At the same time, leaders of the group's member nations are in various stages of reopening their own societies.
A senior White House official said Trump was seriously considering rescheduling the summit for some point in June, likely toward the end of the month, at either the White House or Camp David. The subject was discussed on a call between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday morning, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
If the summit happens, the U.S. would request that delegations be pared back to minimum personnel and would curtail nonessential events like the spousal program. A final decision would be needed in the coming days to ensure adequate time to prepare for the high-level meeting, the official said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it an interesting idea but said leaders need a lot more details. He said it’s important G7 leaders meet in June so they can discuss the pandemic and restoring economic activity.
“We need to keep meeting as leaders. Whether that’s virtual or in-person we will certainly take a look at what the U.S. is proposing as host of the G7 to see what kind of measures will be in place to keep people safe, what kind of recommendations the experts are giving in terms of how that might function,” Trudeau said.
“There are a lot of discussions to come, but we look forward to having those discussions with the American hosts.”
The U.S. holds the G7's rotating presidency this year and gets to determine where the meeting is held and set the agenda. Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan are the other members.
Trump originally planned to hold the annual summit at his private golf course near Miami. But he switched the venue to Camp David, which he visited last weekend and which is run by the U.S. military, after a public outcry over holding it at one of his money-making properties.