Joe Biden has challenged leaders of G7 countries to use their financial strength to counter China’s increasing global influence, as he stated that Western democracies were “in a contest with autocrats.”
The US president said he was “satisfied” with the outcome of the G7 summit in Cornwall on Sunday, but urged European leaders to be more ambitious in supporting poor people to support an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. countries to offer a wide range of infrastructure financing. .
European leaders at the summit, a gathering of the world’s largest advanced economies, were more cautious about opposing Beijing. Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister and host of the summit, declined to name China during his closing press conference.
Several leaders, including Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi, said the West needed to work with China on key areas, especially climate change.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron said the G7 was “not hostile to China,” while a British official said: “The aim of the summit is to show what we stand for, not who we are.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel supported the creation of a task force to explore how G7 governments can work with the private sector on infrastructure projects in developing countries.
After the meeting, Biden praised the summit’s communiqué for its references to China and said “sufficient action” had been taken against measures to counter Beijing.
The president noted that the last time the G7 met, there had been no reference to China. “The G7 expressly agreed to denounce human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong,” he said, adding that there was also a strategy to pressure China into using forced labour.
“We are in a competition, not with China per se, but with autocrats and autocratic governments around the world as to whether democracies can compete with them in a rapidly changing 21st century,” Biden said.
On Monday, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London denounced the summit, saying it exposed “the sinister intentions of a few countries, including the US.”
The spokesman echoed Beijing’s earlier criticism of Biden’s efforts to form a “united front” against Beijing, saying that such “small circle” politics “artificially led to confrontation and friction”.
Chinese state media also criticized the weekend meeting, saying the G7’s “late” pledge to provide 1 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses to countries in need was a “historic missed opportunity”.
On the last day of the three-day meeting, G7 leaders launched an initiative called “Build Back Better for the World,” or B3W, but disagreed on the details of how it should be funded or what it would entail.
Biden said a committee would draft the plan, with a focus on climate change, health, digital technology and gender equality, to challenge the billions of dollars China has spent on infrastructure in poorer countries.
“China has this Belt and Road initiative and we think there is a much fairer way to meet the needs of developing countries around the world,” he said. The new fund would “represent the values that our democracies represent and not the autocratic lack of values”.
However, climate change experts noted that the G7 meeting had made no collective financial commitment to help developing countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions or cope with climate disasters.
It also watered down a commitment made by G7 environment ministers last month on the timetable for phasing out coal plants. The goal of “an overwhelmingly low-carbon energy system by the 2030s” was dropped in the latest communiqué.
G7 leaders have also been criticized for the ambition of their plan to share Covid-19 vaccines with poorer countries. The communiqué said the group would “share directly at least 870 million doses over the next year”.
Oxfam replied that “a billion doses would have been a drop in the ocean, but they didn’t even manage to do that”. The communiqué said the G7 had provided more than 2 billion doses of vaccine for the developing world since the start of the pandemic.
Biden portrayed the meeting as a break from the Trump era, saying, “America is back at the table. America is back leading the world.”
A European diplomat noted: “Everyone is delighted that the US is back, but American leadership means they will want something from us.”
Johnson said the summit was marked by “fantastic harmony”, although the issue of Brexit and new trade rules for Northern Ireland soured talks with European leaders.
The British Prime Minister insisted that he would “do everything” to ensure that the post-Brexit deal does not impose an unreasonable burden on trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Additional reporting by Erika Solomon in Berlin, Edward White in Seoul and Tom Mitchell in Singapore
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