G7 Meeting in Munich: US pleas for streamlined summit

THE United States yesterday questioned whether the seven richest industrial democracies should continue their annual summits. At the conclusion of the World Economic Summit in Munich, senior US officials said George Bush had suggested that the G7 should consider skipping a summit, to provide time for reflection on the summit format which might help to make them more effective.

Washington's position coincided with a groundswell of opinion among ministers and diplomats, expressed privately, that the existing format has far outgrown its usefulness. And similar public misgivings were expressed by Brian Mulroney of Canada and John Major at the end of the summit yesterday.

The concluding communique disclosed that the group would meet in Japan next year. But a senior US Treasury official said Mr Bush brought up the future of G7 summits every time he attended them. 'He feels strongly about it; he's even suggested skipping a year. Privately, he's suggested that we should have done it when it was our turn.' The US last hosted a G7 summit two years ago.

Mr Mulroney, asked about the future of World Economic Summits, was more cynical. He said: 'Given the size of the economies, what we could do is we could have a Group of One. We could move Mr Bush around from year to year, put him in a room so he could cogitate for three days, and then come out and tell you what he thinks.'

The Canadian Prime Minister added: 'The size of the American economy is such that it dwarfs everybody else, including the Japanese, the Germans, the French and everybody. So you could always have a Group of One.'

The British view was more diplomatic, but no less critical. A senior British official said Mr Major felt that there were now too many international meetings, and not enough international discussion.

Throughout the summit, ministers bewailed the lack of spontaneity that has increasingly characterised the 18-year-old institution. They recalled the effectiveness of the early 'fireside chats' of world leaders at the first summits. Each year, the future summit host declares that his meeting will be the informal and effective one. Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany was no exception. 'Kohl said this year would be different,' said a senior European diplomat. 'Well it ain't that different.'

It is the preparationsthat appear to sabotage the occasions. These begin more than six months before the summit, unheard of in the context of regular international meetings.

'Consider that the draft communique for this summit was prepared by the sherpas (officials who prepare for the summit) in January,' a G7 diplomat said.

More and more, officials believe these preparatory talks should be scrapped. One initial improvement would be to reduce the number of 'sous-sherpas' - the representatives of foreign and finance ministers who accompany the leaders to the summits. But this will prove difficult. The frankest view here was that the summit gave a massive corps of bureaucrats a raison d'etre, which could not now be taken away. It is unlikely that the summits will be streamlined by next year. One official said: 'When Japan does things, it likes to do them big.'

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam