Biden to put focus on China, pandemic and economic recovery at G7 talks

Catherine Wong, South China Morning Post

Posted at Feb 16 2021 01:04 PM

Dealing with the China challenge will be among the key issues for discussion when Joe Biden joins leaders of the Group of Seven nations for virtual talks on Friday, his first multilateral summit as US president.

Biden will also focus on the international response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the world economy during the meeting, the White House said in a statement on Sunday.

Discussion of global economic recovery would include “the importance of all industrialised countries maintaining economic support for the recovery and collective measures to build back better”, the statement said.

“President Biden will also discuss the need to make investments to strengthen our collective competitiveness and the importance of updating global rules to tackle economic challenges such as those posed by China.”

It will be the first time the leaders of the G7 industrialised nations have met since April.

Biden has indicated that he will take a starkly different approach to his predecessor Donald Trump, who pulled the United States out of the World Health Organization and did not join the Covax Facility to distribute Covid-19 vaccines in less developed nations – decisions the Biden administration has reversed.

Shen Dingli, a Shanghai-based international relations expert, said Biden was likely to use the G7 summit to signal his intention of reclaiming America’s role in global leadership.

“Biden wants to prove to the world that the US is returning to the world stage and ready to lead again after four years of Trump, during which the US’ role in the world has rapidly declined,” he said.

Shen also expected US-China rivalry to intensify as Washington seeks to rally its allies to compete with Beijing.

“As the US seeks to lead the global response to the pandemic and reclaim the moral high ground, China will be faced with the dilemma of whether to join or to come up with a parallel plan of its own,” he said.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying has previously said that China welcomed a US return to international bodies such as the WHO, and that Beijing hoped to rebuild ties and resume dialogue with the new US administration.

Relations between the US and China have sunk to their lowest point in decades as they spar over many issues including the Covid-19 pandemic. On Saturday, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the US had “deep concerns” about the early findings of the WHO’s long delayed and highly politicised month-long investigation in China into the origins of the coronavirus, which ended last week.

He said the US had reversed its decision to disengage from the WHO but that China needed to give data from the earliest days of the outbreak and should take part in a “transparent and robust process for preventing and responding to health emergencies”. China hit back at the US criticism, accusing Washington of “severely undermining” the world health body.

Britain has presidency of the G7 this year and is to host a face-to-face leaders’ summit in June. It had proposed expanding the grouping into a democratic alliance called the D10 that would include Australia, South Korea and India, but the plan has reportedly been deferred due to concerns that a deeper Australian involvement in the G7 would be seen as too provocative to China given their strained ties. However, Australia has reportedly been invited to attend all sessions of the June summit.



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