Calling the existing formation “outdated,” Trump revealed the idea of an expanded group after announcing that he was scrubbing the G7 he had planned to host at Camp David in June.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel bailed out of the meeting earlier this week after Trump revised his decision on a virtual summit because of the coronavirus and decided he would host it in person. Other G7 countries – United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada, and Japan – too appeared lukewarm about the summit given the pandemic situation worldwide.
The US President seized the opportunity to suggest a rejig of an organization that began as a G-4 in 1973 and has expanded since, while indicating the new group could meet in September, possibly on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly that meets around that time. “I’m postponing it (the scheduled G7) because I don’t feel that as a G7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world. It is a very outdated group of countries,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One on his way back from Florida where he witnessed the historic launch of the first manned mission into space by a private company, Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
In addition to drafting India, South Korea, and Australia, Trump also wants to bring Russia back into the group. Russia was part of the group before it was expelled in 2014 (when Barack Obama was President) after it invaded Crimea. Trump does not appear to feel too strongly about the Russian annexation.
Although Trump said he had discussed the expansion idea with leaders of the prospective new entrants, he appeared unsure when he could swing the whole deal, given the uncertainty from the pandemic and the looming electoral season in the US leading up to his own campaign for a second term. “Maybe I’ll do it after the election…Think a good time would be before the election. So it might be a G10, G11, and it could be after the election is over,” Trump was quoted as saying.
Trump has not endeared himself to G7 leaders, particularly to Germany’s Angela Merkel (who was the first to bail of the meeting next month), France’s Emanuel Macron, and Canada’s Justin Trudeau. His brusque manner and blunt language, particularly in telling allies to hike their defense spending and pony up money for NATO, has irked them.
But acknowledgement that the narrow grouping is outdated and does not reflected contemporary reality would please New Delhi, which has long made the same argument with regards to the UN Security Council. By some accounts, India’s GDP has now surpassed at least four of the current G7 members – Canada, Italy, France, and UK – two of whom are also members of the UN Permanent Five.
While Trump has consistently batted for Moscow to return to the fold, the one country that he conspicuously left out from his new plans is Brazil, whose GDP is larger than that of Australia, South Korea, Russia, Canada, and Italy, and whose current President is cast in the Trump mold.
The outlier though is clearly China. Although China’s share of the world GDP at 15 per cent is next only to US’ 24 per cent, Beijing’s heft is more than that of Germany, France, UK, and Italy combined. But Trump aides made it clear that China would be a subject of any G7+ discussion, not a party to it.