Biden to rally US allies against virus, Russia and China

US leader's agenda at G-7 summit will include climate change, West's tech edge over China

WASHINGTON • US President Joe Biden's meeting with leaders of the Group of Seven (G-7) industrial economies in Britain this week will usher in a new focus on rallying American 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 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 has vowed to rebuild ties with allies after four rocky years under former president Donald Trump, who pulled the United States out of several multilateral institutions and threatened at one point to quit Nato.

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.

Russia will be at the forefront of attention at the summit in Cornwall, England, and the following days when Mr Biden meets 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 meatpacker, 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 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.

Last Saturday, G-7 finance ministers reached a landmark deal 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 G-7 counterparts will give the deal their final blessing in Cornwall.

The Biden administration, which last Thursday detailed plans to donate 80 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines globally by end-June, is leaning heavily on allies to follow suit as the global pandemic death toll approaches 4 million, US and diplomatic sources say.

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    80m

    Number of vaccine doses the Biden administration plans to donate globally by the end of June.

Washington reversed course last month and backed negotiations over waivers for intellectual property protections at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to speed 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 in May 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 UN 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 US 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 say they expect G-7 leaders to adopt strong language on the forced labour issue. China denies all accusations of abuse in Xinjiang.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2021, with the headline 'Biden to rally US allies against virus, Russia and China'. Subscribe