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Boris Johnson triggers G-7 fears of rival alliance to counter China

Alberto Nardelli and Isabel Reynolds, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

LONDON — Boris Johnson’s plan to host an expanded Group of Seven summit in June is worrying some other members who fear the U.K. may be trying to reshape the forum of wealthy nations via the back door.

The British prime minister has invited South Korea, India and Australia as guests to this year’s meeting as he tries to establish a so-called D-10 coalition of democracies to counter China and other authoritarian states. Johnson wants to champion global action and democratic values, and project the U.K. as a force for good after leaving the European Union.

While it is standard practice for a G-7 host to invite more countries to the summit, the involvement of guest nations is typically limited. According to a person familiar with Johnson’s plans, that will change this year with the three countries set to take part from the get-go, from preparatory meetings of the leaders’ diplomatic emissaries early next month through to ministerial gatherings before the summit.

Though diplomats are waiting to understand the full implications, there’s some concern Johnson’s D-10 is a step toward restructuring the G-7.

One diplomat said a rival grouping risks weakening the G-7, and that could eventually raise pressure on the G-7 to expand in order to regain its lost influence. Expansion is an idea Italy, Germany, France and Japan oppose, according to officials familiar with those governments’ positions.

Two European diplomats also warned there’s a risk that anti-China rhetoric foments a Cold War-style standoff with Beijing, which both said the G-7 must avoid after it batted away President Donald Trump’s attempts to do the same.

 

One diplomat said there would be doubts within the group about whether a U.K. idea established for domestic reasons would have any staying power. The U.K. government didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The issue of expanding the G-7 cuts to the heart of questions about the future of the forum and where members’ strategic interests lie, especially on China.

This year’s summit is a chance to repair ties after years of splintering in the Trump era. The outgoing U.S. president refused to sign the end-of-summit communique in Canada in 2018, while last year’s meeting — which Trump was meant to host — never took place.

Johnson intends to put issues including climate change — so undermined by Trump — at the center of this year’s summit along with trade, health, press and religious freedoms, and human rights.

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