Carbis Bay (England): Leaders of the world’s largest economies unveiled an infrastructure plan Saturday for the developing world to compete with China’s global initiatives, but there was no immediate consensus on how forcefully to call out Beijing over human rights abuses.
Citing China for its forced labor practices is part of President Joe Biden’s campaign to persuade fellow democratic leaders to present a more unified front to compete economically with Beijing. But while they agreed to work toward competing against China, there was less unity on how adversarial a public position the group should take.
Canada, the United Kingdom and France largely endorsed Biden’s position, while Germany, Italy and the European Union showed more hesitancy during Saturday’s first session of the Group of Seven summit, according to a senior Biden administration official. The official who briefed reporters was not authorized to publicly discuss the private meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Biden held talks with France’s Emmanuel Macron, who said cooperation was needed on a range of issues and told the American president that it’s great to have a U.S. president part of the club and very willing to cooperate. Relations between the allies had become strained during the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency and his America first foreign policy.
Biden also met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in between Saturday’s G-7 sessions, the German chancellor confirmed. Merkel downplayed differences on China and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline which would transport natural gas from Russia to Germany, bypassing Ukraine.
The atmosphere is very cooperative, it is characterized by mutual interest,” Merkel said. “There are very good, constructive and very vivid discussions in the sense that one wants to work together.
White House officials have said Biden wants the leaders of the G-7 nations the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Italy to speak in a single voice against forced labour practices targeting China’s Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities. Biden hopes the denunciation will be part of a joint statement to be released Sunday when the summit ends, but some European allies are reluctant to split so forcefully with Beijing.
China had become one of the more compelling sublots of the wealthy nations’ summit, their first since 2019. Last year’s gathering was cancelled because of COVID-19, and recovery from the pandemic is dominating this year’s discussions, with leaders expected to commit to sharing at least 1 billion vaccine shots with struggling countries.
The allies also took the first steps in presenting an infrastructure proposal called Build Back Better for the World, a name echoing Biden’s campaign slogan. The plan calls for spending hundreds of billions of dollars in collaboration with the private sector while adhering to climate standards and labour practices.
It’s designed to compete with China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, which has launched a network of projects and maritime lanes that snake around large portions of the world, primarily Asia and Africa. Critics say China’s projects often create massive debt and expose nations to undue influence by Beijing.