OTTAWA — Canada has persuaded the Trump administration to consider backing a climate change-related initiative that it wants to showcase when it hosts the G7 summit next year, The Canadian Press has learned.
The June gathering of leaders from the G7 countries at a resort in Quebec’s Charlevoix region will mark U.S. President Donald Trump’s first trip to Canada.
Trump has shown disdain for international multilateral groups, disparaging alliances such as NATO, pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate change agreement and tearing up trade deals such as the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership.
But when it comes to the club of like-minded Group of Seven democracies — rounded out by the Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Japan — Trump is engaged and wants the Charlevoix summit to succeed.
“He’s looking forward to coming. He wants to have a successful summit,” Peter Boehm, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s deputy minister for the summit, said in an interview Thursday.
Trudeau formally launched Canada’s G7 presidency on Thursday with a live Facebook event and said Canada will make preservation of the world’s oceans a major agenda item.
The Trump administration has given the green light to developing the theme in the pre-summit meetings during the first half of 2018, Boehm said.
That’s because the conversations will focus on how to preserve and bolster coastal areas that have been devastated by natural disasters, or face major threats in the future, said Boehm.
“I think there is a certain relevance there. I know that the people I’ve talked to — and I have not talked to the president on this — there is an interest in pursuing this as one of our themes,” he said.
The U.S. felt the full force of the most recent tropical storm season as hurricanes battered Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
Boehm said it was too early to say whether Trump’s trip to the G7 would be expanded to included a bilateral Canadian visit. Trudeau has made several trips to Washington, but Trump has yet to set foot in Canada.
While gender will be an overarching theme, cybersecurity, terrorism, jobs of the future, climate and energy will also be key agenda items. Discussions about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, Russia’s growing influence and China’s rapid economic rise and political assertiveness will also be key topics of discussion.
The G7 is a consensus-based group, but it found itself badly divided last year when Trump made his debut at the gathering in Italy.
A rift emerged when the U.S. found itself an outlier on climate change, which led to that summit being branded as the “G6 plus 1.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said afterwards Europe could no longer rely on its traditional American ally, saying: “The times when we could completely rely on others are, to an extent, over.”
Boehm is off to Germany on Friday to meet his counterparts there. Boehm is a former ambassador to Germany and said he will also get a first-hand look at Merkel’s ongoing struggle to build a governing coalition following her country’s September election.
“I can’t speculate on coalition building,” he said.
“Germany is a valued partner really on all of these issues, and has shown leadership in the G20 which they hosted in August.”
Merkel is the longest-serving G7 leader, followed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trudeau.