Plans for a joint Group of Seven statement addressing the COVID-19 pandemic fell through Thursday after U.S. diplomats reportedly insisted on referring to the virus as the “Wuhan virus.”
The virtual meeting was held Wednesday around 7 a.m. after the original planned meeting in Pittsburgh was scuttled due to the coronavirus. One of the goals for the meeting was to agree on a joint statement to show some unity from the G-7 about the pandemic.
French representatives suggested a joint statement last week, but the U.S. objected, saying the leaders already had addressed the pandemic individually, making a joint statement unnecessary. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly the U.S. stance on Friday and prepared drafts, which were rejected by the rest of the G-7 because they used the term “Wuhan virus” and disagreement with the overall message blaming China for the pandemic.
“What the State Department has suggested is a red line,” said a European diplomat, whose name was not released. “You cannot agree with this branding of this virus and trying to communicate this.”
Pompeo was asked about the statement at press briefing on Wednesday.
“With respect to the statement, I always think about these meetings the right answer is to make sure we have the same message coming out of it,” Pompeo told reporters. He then said the use of the term was meant to counter alleged disinformation from China about the start of the pandemic.
Pompeo’s sentiment, however, isn’t shared by everyone in the Trump administration. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin signed a statement from the G-7 finance ministers that said the group was trying to increase coordination in response “to the global health, economic and financial impacts associated with the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19].”