Virtual summits for world leaders can’t be as fun as it is. No cocktails, no family photos or awkward handshakes, no chance to share a few laughs on the sidelines of the American president.
That was the other thing that was missing when the leaders of the G7 countries met virtually on Friday – not Donald Trump.
Just about 14 months ago, Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron were caught on camera at a NATO summit reception, appearing to be having fun at Trump’s expense.
Joe Biden, Trump’s successor, enjoyed the moment so much that he put it in one of his campaign videos. “We need a leader whom the world respects,” the announcement proclaimed. He promised to be that leader.
The G7 summit and the president’s remarks at a Munich security conference were then billed as Biden’s debut on the world stage; a day to reset the tone of American international diplomacy after the destructive outburst of the Trump years.
Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were the only two leaders around this virtual table Friday to have attended G7 summits around the world before Trump. Macron and Johnson came to power after Trump took office; Italy and Japan have only recently elected new leaders.
So while Biden and members of his team announced on Friday that “America is back” in their many statements – including the official return of the Paris climate change agreement – it’s not like if the G7 simply picked up where it left off, before Trump.
The world has changed dramatically since Biden was in a U.S. administration, and not just because of the pandemic. Biden acknowledged this in his remarks in Munich.
“The challenges we face today are different. We are at an inflection point, ”said the new president. “We are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future and direction of our world. We are at an inflection point between those who argue that, given all the challenges we face – from the Fourth Industrial Revolution to a global pandemic – autocracy is the best way forward, they argue, and those who understand that democracy is essential – essential to meet these challenges. ”
Everything about this Munich speech – and it’s worth reading in its entirety – is the antithesis of Trump. Biden’s commitment to multilateralism, as articulated in these remarks, is deep and enthusiastic. He has vowed to put the United States at the forefront of the world’s nations seeking solutions to climate change, which he calls an existential threat.
In April, on Earth Day, Biden is hosting the climate change summit of his own, which Trudeau will attend. The event will be virtual, PMO officials confirm, as will Friday’s summit.
We’re still waiting, moreover, to find out when Trudeau and Biden will hold their first formal meeting, which was reportedly scheduled for “next month” after speaking on the phone in January. With only one week left in February, the pandemic is still raging and travel between Canada and the United States is still sharply reduced, it’s hard to imagine how this Biden-Trudeau event would look like any kind usual state visit.
The good news, however, is that it won’t be like any event with Trump, which were exhilarating rides with unpredictability and occasional temper tantrums.
Trudeau’s official statement at the end of Friday’s summit made no mention of how Biden’s presence had been a game-changer around G7 diplomacy. Canada did not say how nice it was to have “America back” or what a relief it was to deal with an American president who did not rush out of the meeting shouting. names to people. We had to read between the lines and then move on.
Hours after the G7 leader’s summit closed, news – and leaders – had returned to more internal concerns. Biden visited a Pfizer factory in Michigan and Trudeau was announcing extensions to pandemic relief programs in Canada.
So Trump may be gone, but domestic politics, my country first, which he defended, is still a strength.
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Friday’s G7 summit was truly a bookend at that now famous moment of Trudeau and other laughing leaders in December 2019. Part of their fun, we will remember, was driven by how Trump had been publicly. independent on plans for the next G7 summit. , which it was supposed to host in 2020 – and never did, because of the pandemic and the U.S. election.
On Friday, the world took a peek at international diplomacy with Trump: The New World Order. The G7, without Trump, is a more cooperative, friendlier, even ambitious place. It is also much quieter.
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