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Since at least August, this year’s Group of Seven conference has been a fraught topic for the Trump administration. Seven months and a dozen-or-so crises ago, the president pushed to hold the summit at the lovely Trump National Doral Miami Golf Resort. Despite his promise that he would not “make any money” from hosting a high-profile event at his struggling vacation complex — not to mention the reports that Trump has overcharged the U.S. government for services at his resorts — the president faced what he considered a “surprising” level of pushback and rescinded the generous offer.
From there, the G7 was moved to Pittsburgh until an in-person meeting was deemed too risky due to potential coronavirus exposure and the Trump administration called for a tele-summit. But don’t think that phoning in would stop the Trump White House from frustrating the other member countries. According to reports from Germany’s Der Spiegel and the Washington Post, the insistence by the U.S. to refer to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan virus” stopped the G7 from issuing a statement on the global health and economic crisis.
While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the disagreements at the conference as tactical in nature, a European official told the Post that the dispute over the Trump administration’s preferred phrase was the most significant obstacle to a consensus. According to the Post, the other nations at the summit — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom — “rejected the term because they viewed it as needlessly divisive at a time when international cooperation is required to slow the global pandemic and deal with the scarcity of medical supplies.” Calling the virus by the administration’s preferred name appears to have encouraged hate crimes against Asian-Americans.
Though the president said on Monday he would stop referring to COVID-19 as “Chinese virus” and the “Wuhan virus,” his administration appears committed to the terms enough to tank a statement from a major intergovernmental organization on one of the most pressing crises in the postwar period. But considering the president’s past performances at the conference — infuriating fellow member states on trade in 2017, lobbying for Russia to join in 2018, and dismissing “niche” issues like climate change in 2019 —a disruptive American presence should be expected as something of an annual tradition.