Secretive global group gathers in US to mull Trump era

Bilderberg group meetings have previously sparked protests and anti-globalisation demonstrators have reportedly descended on this year's event in Virginia (AFP Photo/Christian Bruna) (AFP/File)

Washington (AFP) - A secretive group of global power brokers including politicians, bankers, business titans and European royalty gather behind closed doors starting Thursday to debate the merits of Donald Trump's fledgling US presidency.

The four-day Bilderberg meeting takes place in Chantilly, Virginia, where 131 elites -- from elder statesman Henry Kissinger to NATO secretary Jens Stoltenberg to civil rights activist Vernon Jordan will discuss transatlantic relations, the future of the European Union and "a progress report" on the Trump administration, according to a statement from the group.

This year's confab can be seen as a chance for Trump supporters, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and billionaire tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, to face his critics like Eric Schmidt, executive director of Google's parent company.

Schmidt warned in January that Trump's administration will do "evil things."

The group, which has met every year since 1954 and was created as a forum for fostering dialogue between Europe and North America, will gather less than 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the White House, but they will be a world away from the media fishbowl that is Washington.

Several journalists are participating in this year's forum, including London Evening Standard editor George Osborne and Cansu Camlibel, the Washington bureau chief for Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper. But per tradition, news outlets are not invited to cover the event.

"There is no desired outcome, no minutes are taken and no report is written," the group stated. "Furthermore, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued."

The meeting is expected to address Russia, China, nuclear proliferation, globalization, and "the war on information."

Guests scheduled to attend the meeting include Dutch King Willem-Alexander, who works part-time as a commercial pilot; David Rubenstein, co-founder of influential global investment firm The Carlyle Group; and John Brennan, CIA chief under Barack Obama.

Ex-deputy secretary of state William Burns and former deputy assistant secretary of defense Elaine Bunn, both Obama-era officials, will also attend.

Burns, the current president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has warned that Trump "risks hollowing out the ideas, initiative and institutions on which US leadership and international order rest."

Anti-globalization protesters reportedly have descended on the location of the meeting.

The secretive nature of the group has given birth to conspiracy theories. Some have warned, for example, that Bilderberg is a group of rich and powerful kingmakers seeking to impose a one world government.