G-7 agrees on infrastructure plan to counter China's Belt and Road

Henrietta Brewer
June 13, 2021

G7 leaders on Saturday confronted China and the threat of future pandemics as the elite club of wealthy nations advertised a newfound Western unity at its first physical summit since 2019.

After the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit, Mr. Biden will fly to Geneva for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"This morning was to go a little bit deeper on some of the. more challenging elements within the G7 positioning on how hard to push and to call out some of the actions that China is taking", said a senior USA administration official.

Further details would come in the G7 summit's final communique on Sunday, the White House added.

Leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations on Saturday sought to counter China's growing economic clout by agreeing to launch a new infrastructure project for the developing world as an alternative to Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative.

It's the first section that has been a struggle for diplomats seeking consensus. But while they agreed to work toward competing against China, there was less unity on how adversarial a public position the group should take.

The EU, for instance, previously struck an investment deal with China, although it later put the agreement on hold amid rising tensions with Beijing.

The leaders will vow to boost genomic sequencing capacity, and support reforms to strengthen the World Health Organization (WHO), according to Johnson's government, which like the U.S. wants China to allow new access to WHO experts to determine how Covid-19 first emerged. But at the same time, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, specifically, have reportedly suggested they're anxious about Biden's camp taking things to the point that they could lose any cooperation from China.

A senior Biden administration official said the USA was pushing to name China in the communiqué.

China denies allegations that it is waging "genocide" by forcing up to one million Uyghurs and people from other ethnic-Turkic minorities into internment camps in the region of Xinjiang.

Another human rights issue in play is whether to name specific Beijing detainees in the communiqué. "And I think we've been quite clear about that", a senior administration official told reporters on a call on Friday night.

G7 leaders are on Saturday set to agree a joint declaration aimed at preventing another pandemic, as they resume wide-ranging talks at their first in-person summit in nearly two years.

The U.S. official said it is not the intention of the United States to force other countries to choose between the world's two largest economies, but rather to show to others that democracies are a better model than what Washington labels as autocracies such as China. The G7 plan is likely to be welcome news to India, which is concerned about BRI initiatives in its neighbourhood, including in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other small South and Southeast Asian countries.

The White House said it wants G7 countries to commit to a "higher-quality" alternative to Belt and Road funding, offering investments that adhere to better climate standards and labor practices.

Such discourse "is part of US political culture where it's considered normal".

Keeping in mind the current Covid-induced situation, "the G7 initiative would be similarly global in scope, estimating that the developing world needs more than $40 trillion in infrastructure".

Unlike the Belt and Road Initiative, which has been criticized for its opaque bidding processes and reliance on low-interest loans that have put borrowing nations at the mercy of Chinese banks and contractors, the US -led initiative would aim to be "values-driven, transparent and sustainable", the administration official said.

"Until now we haven't offered a positive alternative that reflects our values, our standards and our way of doing business".

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