WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – United States President Joe Biden’s meeting with leaders of the Group of Seven (G-7) leading industrial economies in an English seaside village this week will usher in a new focus on rallying US allies against common adversaries – the Covid-19 pandemic, Russia and China.
New Covid-19 variants and rising death tolls in some countries will loom large during the gathering from Friday (June 11) to Sunday, alongside climate change, strengthening global supply chains and ensuring the West maintains its technological edge over China, the world’s second-largest economy.
Mr Biden, a Democrat, vowed to rebuild relations with allies after four rocky years under former president Donald Trump, who pulled Washington out of several multilateral institutions and threatened at one point to quit Nato.
“In this moment of global uncertainty, as the world still grapples with a once-in-a-century pandemic, this trip is about realising America’s renewed commitment to our allies and partners,” Mr Biden wrote in an opinion piece, published by The Washington Post last Saturday.
The gathering will put Mr Biden’s “America is back” motto to the test, with allies disillusioned during the Trump years looking for tangible, lasting action.
It is a pivotal moment for the US and the world, former British prime minister Gordon Brown said on CNN on Sunday.
“Is international cooperation going to be restored or are we still in this world where nationalism, protectionism and to some extent isolationism are dominating?” Mr Brown asked.
Russia will be at the forefront of attention at the G-7 summit in Cornwall, England, and the days afterwards when Mr Biden meets with European leaders and Nato allies in Brussels, before heading to Geneva to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The recent ransomware attack on JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, by a criminal group likely based in Russia and Mr Putin’s financial backing for Belarus after it forced a Ryanair flight to land so it could arrest a dissident journalist on board, are pushing US officials to consider sharper action.
On the sidelines of the Nato summit, Mr Biden is also expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a crucial session between the sparring Nato allies after Ankara’s purchase of Russian defence systems angered Washington and risked driving a wedge within the alliance.
G-7 finance ministers reached a landmark global deal last Saturday to set a minimum global corporate tax rate of at least 15 per cent, potentially hitting giant tech companies like Alphabet’s Google, Facebook and Amazon.com.
Mr Biden and his counterparts will give the deal their final blessing in Cornwall.
The Biden administration, which last Thursday detailed its plans to donate 80 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines globally by the end of this month, is leaning heavily on allies to follow suit as the global pandemic death toll approaches four million, US and diplomatic sources say.
Washington reversed course last month and backed negotiations over waivers for intellectual property protections at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to speed up vaccine production in developing countries, much to the chagrin of Germany and Britain.
European diplomats say they see little common ground on the issue and argue that any WTO compromise would take months to finalise and implement. That may prove a moot point if sufficient vaccine doses are shared with developing countries to slow – and eventually halt – the pandemic.
Mr Biden announced plans last month to require US government contractors and financial institutions to be more transparent about the climate change risks faced by their investments and administration officials are pushing other countries to adopt similar plans.
Britain also wants governments to require businesses to report such risks as a way to boost investment in green projects. But agreement on a way forward is unlikely to come this month. A deal could emerge at a United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.
G-7 countries also have different views on carbon pricing, which the International Monetary Fund views as a key way to curb carbon dioxide emissions and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
The Biden administration will urge allies to unite against China over allegations of forced labour in Xinjiang province, home to the Muslim Uighur minority, even as it seeks to maintain Beijing as an ally in the climate change fight.
Sources following the discussions say they expect G-7 leaders to adopt strong language on the forced labour issue. China denies all accusations of abuse in Xinjiang.