Scott Morrison has confirmed he has been in talks with the United States about attending the postponed G7 summit, after the US president indicated he wanted to expand the event from a “very outdated group of countries” to discuss China.
On Sunday, Donald Trump said he felt the current G7 membership does not adequately represent “what’s going on in the world”, and specifically cited Australia, Russia, South Korea and India as possible additions.
It would not be the first time Australia has attended a G7 summit, with Morrison appearing at the 2019 summit as a guest of French president, Emmanuel Macron.
A spokesman for Morrison said Australia would attend any forthcoming event, if invited.
“There has been contact between the US and the prime minister about a G7 invitation,” she said.
“The G7 has been a topic of recent high-level exchanges. Australia would welcome an official invitation. Strengthening international cooperation among like-minded countries is valued at a time of unprecedented global challenges.”
Morrison will hold a virtual summit with the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, this week, where he will discuss opening up more trade with the emerging economy, in the shadow of growing trade disputes with China.
Donald Trump has not made it clear whether or not he wants to permanently expand the group which, after Russia’s expulsion 2014, includes the US, Britain, France, Japan, Germany, Italy and Canada. The European Union also attends.
Extending an invitation to Russia will be controversial.
Russia was suspended from what was then the G8 in 2014 after its annexation of Crimea. Trump has made attempts to return Russia to the talks since ascending to the presidency in 2016, a move rebuffed by other member states.
White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said on Saturday that Trump wants the countries to discuss China at the summit.
The meeting, originally scheduled for March, had been cancelled as the global pandemic took hold. Trump had hoped to revive it as an in-person meeting, but after the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said earlier this week she could not attend, the meeting looked increasingly unlikely.
Trump has also spoken with the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, and French president, Emmanuel Macron, in recent days about re-convening the meeting in person. It’s unclear if either committed to a June gathering or encouraged a postponement.
“I’m postponing it because I don’t feel that as a G7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world,” Trump told reporters on Sunday.
He said he had not yet set a new date for the meeting, but thought the gathering could take place in September, around the time of the annual meeting of the United Nations in New York, or perhaps after the US presidential election on 3 November.
“Maybe I’ll do it after the election,” Trump said. “I 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 said.
Trump has attacked Beijing over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which began in China, and on Friday he ordered his administration to begin the process of ending special US treatment for Hong Kong in retaliation for China’s decision to impose a new security law on the former British colony.
The decision to postpone the G7 summit is a retreat for Trump, who had sought to host the group of major industrialised countries in Washington as a demonstration that the United States was returning to normal after the coronavirus epidemic, which has killed more than 103,000 Americans to date.