FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Trudeau kept ‘back pocket’ G7 summit statement to guard against Trump

Canada was taking nothing for granted at last year’s summit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kept a “back pocket” closing statement at last year’s stormy G7 summit in case U.S. President Donald Trump blocked the usual united communique, the top Canadian organizer has revealed.

Sen. Peter Boehm was Trudeau’s sherpa, the senior public servant who organized the Canadian-hosted G7 leaders’ meeting at Charlevoix, Que., and describes the unprecedented efforts to manage Trump’s potential disruption at the meeting in an article for the French foreign policy journal, “politique etrangere.”

Boehm retired from the public service three months after the summit, which ended with Trump unleashing a tirade of Twitter insults at Trudeau and his withdrawal of support for the summit’s final communique.

Last September, Trudeau appointed Boehm to the Senate as an independent after a long career as a diplomat that included ambassadorships and deputy minister level offices in Ottawa.

It was no secret in the lead-up to last year’s G7 that the government fretted that Trump would be a disruptive force.

Trudeau is expected to attend this year’s leaders meeting later this month in France, and French officials are scrambling to have a successful summit — with or without Trump’s co-operation.

Boehm argues in his 11-page essay of the need for a successful G7 to tackle global problems with a united consensus among its member countries that includes Britain, Germany, Japan and Italy.

“The single greatest downside of using this method in a body like the G7 is that one unco-operative member can spoil desired outcomes worked toward and advocated for by the rest,” he writes.

Ordinarily, the final communique, a statement that sherpas carefully craft for their leaders, is the main way for the G7 to show “unity and leadership to the world,” says Boehm.

But Canada was taking nothing for granted at last year’s summit.

“The choice for the Canadian summit at Charlevoix was whether to undertake the effort of negotiating a communique at all,” says Boehm.

That’s because there were “deep differences” between the Americans — Boehm never names Trump directly — the other six countries and the European Union (also a G7 member) on several issues, he says. Among the issues were climate change, the international rules-based order, protectionism in trade, and the nuclear deal between Iran and the Western powers, which Trump has since pulled the U.S. out of.

Because of those differences, Boehm says, “the concern was that a communique could have resulted in a ‘lowest common denominator’ consensual effort that would have not meant much nor passed public muster.”

Eventually, the decision was taken to forge on with a communique, but with what amounted to a Plan B.

“It was decided among sherpas, and agreed to by Prime Minister Trudeau as host, that an effort at negotiating a communique should be undertaken, with the issuance of a chair’s summary being a fallback position should the search for consensus prove futile. The Canadians did keep a ‘back pocket’ chair’s statement on hand — just in case.”

The leaders mounted a decisive final effort, alongside their sherpas, and after a marathon overnight session, “a solidly substantive communique (with an expected division on climate change) was agreed to,” says Boehm.

The hard work unravelled after Trump, who left early, tweeted from Air Force One that Trudeau was “very dishonest and weak” after the prime minister reitirated his criticism of U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs during his closing press conference. Trump also said he was withdrawing his support for the communique.

“Attempting to break consensus, ex post facto following the release of the Charlevoix Summit documents by using Twitter to demonstrate pique directed at the host was also a new, not to mention unwelcome, phenomenon,” writes Boehm.

John Kirton, a University of Toronto expert on G7 summitry, said he doesn’t expect Trump to pose the same threat to French President Emmanuel Macron in Biarrritz, France this month.

There will be no consensus on climate change because Macron, as host, won’t agree to any watering down of support on the Paris climate accord that Trump has disavowed, Kirton said. The U.S. and the rest of the G7 will simply have to agree to disagree, he said.

But Trump may be more conciliatory on other topics so he has allies ready to help him deal with the nuclear crises involving Iran and North Korea, as well as his trade war with China, said Kirton.

Moreover, the United States will be assuming the presidency of the G7 in 2020 and Kirton said he’s encouraged by recent reports Trump is considering hosting the gathering at Trump National Doral, his luxury golf resort in Miami.

Kirton expects Trump to move the G7 up to the spring, perhaps May, to get ahead of the Republican and Democratic national conventions in the summer as the U.S. presidential election campaign heats up.

“I think he wants to be seen leading the world at home, and, of course, I predict that in the mind of Donald Trump it will be the best G7 summit in world history,” said Kirton.

“He’s got an incentive to make it a success. You can’t trash Macron and expect him to make your summit next year a success. You’ve got that kind of reciprocity at work already.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

FVRD emergency plan only ‘partially meeting’ expectations, says auditor

Regional district says they are already working on shortfalls in emergency management

Vis stresses need for unity after Conservative leader resigns

Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon MP said he was shocked by Andrew Scheer’s announcement

Annual Christmas panto returns to Mission stage

Opening Nite Theatre presents the Empress’s New Clothes

Richmond RCMP seek witnesses after Fraser Valley man killed in hit-and-run

The victim has been identified as a man in his early 60s from the Fraser Valley

New quad chair ready to go for Sasquatch Mountain Resort opening

The Yeti Cruiser will replace the two-person Skyline chair at the Hemlock Valley ski resort

‘Not a decision I came to lightly:’ Scheer to resign as Conservative leader

Decision comes after weeks of Conservative infighting following the October election

‘British Columbians are paying too much’: Eby directs ICBC to delay rate application

Attorney General David Eby calls for delay in order to see how two reforms play out

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Couple who bought $120k banana duct-taped to wall say artwork will be ‘iconic’

Pair compared it to Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans,’ which was initially ‘met with mockery’

Race to replace Andrew Scheer could be a crowded one

Many familiar faces, such as Maxime Bernier, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Kevin O’Leary, have said no

National cold case hunters take on search for missing man last seen in B.C.

Kristofer Couture’s car was found at Chilliwack trailhead in January but there’s been no sign since

Metro Vancouver mayors green light regional business license for ride-hailing

Surrey mayor only member to vote against inter-municipality business license

Owner surrenders dogs chained up outside among scrap metal, garbage to BC SPCA

Shepherd-breed dogs were living in ‘deplorable conditions.’

Most Read