President Biden and his Group of 7 allies focused on an effort on Saturday to unify the world‘s leading democracies in a new endeavor to reduce China’s growing global influence.
The centerpiece of this effort is a new investment program – or âinfrastructure bankâ – to mobilize billions of public and private resources to support major projects in developing countries as an alternative to the Chinese initiative. Belt and the Road “.
It would be the first major response by the United States and other G-7 countries to the initiative launched by China in 2013, which has significantly increased its influence in the world, as more than 60 small countries have signed projects or expressed interest in doing so.
“This is not about making countries choose between us and China,” said a senior official in the Biden administration, describing the plan for reporters on condition of anonymity. “It’s about offering an affirmative and positive vision that they would like to choose.”
Unlike China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has been criticized for its opaque bidding processes and reliance on low-interest loans that have placed borrowing countries at the mercy of Chinese banks and entrepreneurs, the US-led initiative would aim to be “values-driven, transparent and sustainable,” the administration official said.
European leaders have been somewhat reluctant to fully align with increasingly U.S. policy confrontational posture towards China. Given their closer economic ties with Beijing, they have been more eager to join forces behind the scenes to work on issues such as intellectual property protection and trade.
“There is a little differentiation … within, I think, the specter of how hard they would push some of these issues,” a senior Biden administration official said after the G-7 leaders’ discussions on the issue. fight against China. The Japanese and German leaders in particular were more hesitant, compared to British France and Canada, the official said.
In addition to demanding that new infrastructure projects be as environmentally sustainable as possible, the company would also ban any use of forced labor.
Biden urged his G-7 counterparts to include a strong condemnation of China’s use of forced labor in the final summit statement on Sunday, details of which are still being negotiated.
âWe insist on being specific about areas like Xinjiang where forced labor takes place,â the official said, referring to the territory in northwest China where tens of thousands of Uyghurs have been forcibly transferred from their homes. homes and assigned to factories across nine provinces in a range of supply chains, including electronics, textiles and automobiles.
“We believe it is essential to denounce the use of forced labor,” the official said, “and to take concrete steps to ensure that global supply chains are free from forced labor.”
Biden also held a bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the summit on Saturday afternoon.
Macron, who like many leaders of the Group of 7 had a controversial relationship with former President Trump, said ahead of the meeting: “It’s great to have a US president who is part of the club and who is very willing to cooperate “.
As the pair sat outside in woven chairs by a wide beach, reporters asked Biden if he had convinced American allies that America was back. He said, looking at Macron, “Ask him.”
Macron, on the spot, replied: âCertainly.
Of all the G-7 allies, Macron had been the most outspoken in wanting to establish more independence from Washington.
Biden also met separately with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. They discussed a range of issues, including the future of Afghanistan as the United States withdraws its forces there, the White House said.
By joining Biden’s infrastructure initiative – even calling it “Building Back Better for the World,” tailoring the slogan to the President’s national agenda – G-7 leaders will make it clear to the world that they share his view that this moment could be a global ‘inflection point’ event and that it is imperative that democracies come together to solve the problems and potentially halt the rise of autocracies that have seized power these days. last years.
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After four difficult years of relations with the Trump administration, their responsiveness to Biden’s agenda also shows a desire for success.
G-7 leaders on Friday presented a new effort to collectively deliver 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the poorest countries where the pandemic continues to spread. It was another demonstration, they said, of their commitment to come to the aid of other nations without the kind of conditions that are often attached to helping the greater autocracies, namely China and Russia.