World Leaders aired serious differences over how best to approach China during a session of the G7 Summit in Cornwall on Saturday, according to a Senior Biden Administration Official.

The disagreements, aired during a session that at one point became so sensitive that all internet was shut off to the room, pitted European nations against the United States, Britain and Canada, who urged stronger action against China for its authoritarian practices, including forced labor practices in Western Xinjiang Province.

Officials described the China issue as one of the most challenging elements of the G7 gathering.

“There was some interesting discussion, and a little bit of differentiation of opinion on, not whether this threat is there but on how strong, from an action perspective, I think different G7 members are willing to take things,” the official said.

At one point, US President Joe Biden made a forceful call to other leaders about vocally calling out China’s anti-democratic practices, officials said, emphasizing the need to take action.

The official said Biden was joined by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron in pushing for tougher action on China. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and leaders from the European Union sought to emphasize areas of cooperation with China.

Even within those groupings, there was a spectrum of views on the matter, officials said.

Where officials did agree was on establishing an infrastructure initiative to compete with China’s Belt and Road program.

Still, though the leaders disagreed, the session was marked by new respect among the leaders after four years of tension under former US President Donald Trump.

“These leaders really seem to like each other and respect each other, and work through where that sweet spot might be,” the senior administration official said, describing real effort at finding consensus on tricky issues, including China.

Some more context: The G7 summit formally began on Friday evening with discussion of vaccines and later a family photo. Officials said there was a sense of new unity among the group after four years of strain under Trump, marked by embraces and warm looks between the leaders. Saturday’s session delved deeper into the differences between nations than the Friday talks.

Boris Johnson: believes Biden will bring tough messages to Summit with Putin

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he “wholly approves” of US President Joe Biden bringing “tough messages” to a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

Asked by CNN’s Clarissa Ward whether he agrees with Biden’s assessment of Putin being a “killer,” Johnson said he “certainly” thinks “President Putin has done things that are unconscionable.”

Johnson said he is “fairly certain that Putin authorized the poisonings in Salisbury that led to the death of an innocent and a member of the British public and the attempted poisoning of the Skripals.”

Johnson pointed to the case of jailed and poisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who he says is “in prison on trumped-up charges” and is “effectively being tortured,” an example of what happens to Putin’s enemies.

He also said there can’t be a normalization in relations between the US and Russia until Moscow “changes its behavior.”

More on the Biden-Putin summit: The US and Russian leaders are currently not expected to hold a joint press conference following their high-stakes summit in Geneva, Switzerland Wednesday, two US officials familiar with the matter said.

The final plans are still being formulated and could change. But officials putting together the day’s events said that as of Friday, no joint press conference was expected. On Saturday, the White House confirmed Biden would not join Putin after the summit for a press conference and instead the US President will hold a solo presser. As for the nature of the meeting, a White House official said they expect it to “be candid and straightforward.”

Boris Johnson calls for “compromise on all sides” over Northern Ireland Protocol

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held bilateral meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of the G7 on Saturday morning, as post-Brexit tensions between Britain and the European Union threaten to overshadow the summit.

Johnson also met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel at the Carbis Bay resort, where G7 leaders have gathered for the first major in-person summit since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Britain and the bloc have been locked in heated discussions over Northern Ireland — the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with the EU.

The EU is furious at Britain’s delays to imposing new checks on some goods coming into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, while Johnson has said the protocol is putting an undue burden on businesses and having a “damaging impact” on the people of Northern Ireland. The EU has launched legal action against the UK over its unilateral attempts to extend the Brexit grace period on food imports to Northern Ireland.

The growing feud between Britain and the EU has also drawn the attention of US President Joe Biden, concerned that it risks inflaming tensions on the island of Ireland and poses a threat to Northern Ireland’s peace deal, which was brokered by the US in 1998.

Downing Street said on Saturday that EU leaders would continue discussions to seek a resolution to issues over the Northern Ireland Protocol and that Johnson had called for “compromise on all sides.”

Following Johnson’s talks with EU leaders, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “He made clear his desire for pragmatism and compromise on all sides but underlined that protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions was paramount.”

Reacting on Twitter, Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU wants the “best possible relations with the UK,” but urged it to “implement what we agreed on.”

Biden will Hold Solo Press Conference after Putin Meeting, White House Says

US President Joe Biden will hold a solo press conference following his meeting Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, the White House confirmed Saturday.

On Friday a joint press conference wasn’t expected, but that officials were still negotiating details of the summit with their Russian counterparts.

“While we are still finalizing the format for the meeting with President Putin and his delegation, we can confirm a few details, including the plan for both a working session and a smaller session, as well as a solo press conference by President Biden following the meeting,” a White House official said.

“We expect this meeting to be candid and straightforward and a solo press conference is the appropriate format to clearly communicate with the free press the topics that were raised in the meeting—both in terms of areas where we may agree and in areas where we have significant concerns,” the official went on.

It still was not immediately clear whether Biden and Putin will meet one-on-one without notetakers, as then-US President Donald Trump did when he met Putin in Helsinki.

Biden’s Preaching the Benefits of Democracy in Europe but new Concerns Arise Back Home

President Joe Biden’s attempts to talk up democracy in Europe this week are facing headwinds from back home, where revelations about the Justice Department’s attempts to obtain Democrats’ data have raised new concerns about the state of American politics.

Throughout his time here, Biden is making the case to American allies that democracy must prevail over a rising tide of authoritarianism. His argument has been that democracies are better at providing for their people and the world.

He has openly acknowledged that democracies are often messy. But he said this week that the world had reached an “inflection point” where the competition between democracy and autocracy is coming to a head.

Yet as challenges back home bubble up, he is finding it harder to point to his country’s own recent history, including the lingering remnants of President Donald Trump’s tenure.

As he was preparing to attend his first G7 meeting on Friday, reports emerged from Washington that prosecutors in Trump’s Justice Department, beginning in February 2018, subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of House Intelligence Committee Democrats, their staff and family members, including at least one minor, as part of a leak investigation. The subpoena included a gag order, which was renewed three times before it expired this year and Apple notified the customers in May.

The development immediately drew accusations the Trump administration was abusing its power in a decidedly undemocratic fashion. The attempts by the Justice Department to secretly gather information about Trump’s political rivals came after revelations it took similar steps to obtain information from reporters at outlets Trump frequently denigrated.

It was the kind of step American officials often decry in the authoritarian regimes Biden is hoping to minimize in his European tour this week. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who’s set to meet with the President next week and is a fan of using whataboutism in order to deflect criticism of his regime, no doubt read the reports with interest.

President Biden Begins the Second Day of G7

President Biden has arrived at Carbis Bay seaside village in Cornwall for the second day of the G7 summit. His motorcade arrived around 10:15 a.m. (5:15 a.m. ET).

Today’s sessions are focused on “Building Back Resilient – Winning the Future” and “Building Back Resilient – Foreign Policy.”

Later he is scheduled to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron for their first formal in-person meeting. They held a brief chat during Friday’s summit session.

G7 Leaders to Focus on Strategic Competition with China During Saturday Session

Saturday’s working session at the G7 summit in Cornwall, England, is aimed at strategic competition with China, Biden administration officials said, with the aim of positioning the US and its allies to better compete with China in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

Part of that competition will include the “Build Back Better for the World” initiative, which a senior administration official described as a “bold, new global infrastructure initiative with our G7 partners that will be values-driven, transparent and sustainable.”

The infrastructure initiative will work to address a $40 trillion infrastructure gap in lower and middle-income countries, the official said, and is designed to compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The G7 will announce “a positive alternative that reflects our values, our standards, and our way of doing business,” a second senior official said.

The group will be joining partners and the private sector in “collectively catalyzing hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure investment for low and middle-income countries that need it.”

Officials described the action not as a confrontation, but as the presentation of an alternative path.

“This is not about making countries choose between us and China, this is about offering an affirmative, alternative vision and approach that they would want to choose,” the first administration official said. “

And in the coming days when Biden travels to the NATO summit in Brussels, NATO countries will be “addressing the security challenge from China directly in a communique” for the first time, per the first senior official.

A second piece of Saturday’s session, the officials announced, is aimed at targeting China’s forced labor practices.

President Joe Biden, the second official said, will be “pressing his fellow leaders for concrete action on forced labor, to make clear to the world that we believe these practices are an affront to human dignity and an egregious example of China’s unfair economic competition.”

The administration is advocating for China to be specifically named in the final G7 communiqué, though it was unclear if it will ultimately end up in the final agreement that will be released Sunday.

G7 Leaders in Cornwall want to Tackle Inequality. Even People Down the Road aren’t Convinced

A bronze sculpture of a tin miner overlooks a short strip of budget food and clothing stores, and boarded up businesses in Cornwall’s Redruth. It’s a celebration of the town’s proud mining history, but also a reminder of its decline. A surgical mask on the statue’s face symbolizes the town’s sense of community — and its collective anxiety over how it will pull through the pandemic.

Just a 20-minute drive away, leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) nations, which together account for 40% of the world’s GDP are staying in luxury accommodation on the glorious Carbis Bay, flying in on private jets for lavish meals and even a meeting with the Queen and other royals, to discuss, of all things, how to address the very inequality their nations have for so long perpetuated.

In a small Redruth gallery, the Mining Exchange Art Studios, a painting hangs on a wall, depicting a defunct fire station in need of a makeover. Lorna Elaine Hosking, a 29-year-old artist who runs the studios, thinks the G7 leaders are not really thinking about towns like hers.

“The G7 is a positive thing because it highlights how wonderful the county is, but it would be nice if the Cornish people were celebrated for more than just the seaside image, because it’s much more than that,” she said.

“We never really recovered from the economic crash in the ’80s, and we’ve had lots more recessions since then. We do our best, but sometimes we get forgotten about. These leaders that come in, they just see the seaside, but us people inland in the old mining towns like Redruth, the wages are very low. There’s lots of problems.”

Of all the world’s advanced nations, the United Kingdom has one of the most unequal distributions of wealth, the United States is even worse and Cornwall is home to some of the country’s most deprived neighborhoods.

But what’s going on in this Cornish town is the same story in so many parts of the world. Little progress has been made globally to improve equality since the 2008 financial crisis, and the frustration of hundreds of millions of people has culminated in movements like Occupy Wall Street, the election of populist leaders like Donald Trump, and a movement away from globalization to parochialism and protectionism.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is chairing the summit, said at the first leaders’ meeting on Friday that it was “vital” to avoid repeating the same mistakes of the 2008 crisis, “when the recovery was not uniform across all parts of society.”

“And I think what’s gone wrong with this pandemic, or what risks being a lasting scar, is that inequalities may be entrenched.”

Latest on High-Stakes Biden-Putin Summit that is Set to take Place Wednesday

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are not currently expected to hold a joint press conference following their high-stakes summit in Geneva, Switzerland, next week, two US officials familiar with the matter said.

The final plans are still being formulated and could change. But officials putting together the day’s events said that as of Friday no joint press conference was expected.

This is a change from three years ago, when then-President Donald Trump met privately for two hours with Putin in Helsinki, Finland. When both leaders later spoke to reporters, Trump sided with the Kremlin over US intelligence agencies, drawing criticism at home.

US officials said they expect to be negotiating details of the summit’s structure and format with their Russian counterparts until the hours before it begins.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN’s Matthew Chance in an exclusive interview on Friday that Russia is also not expecting a joint press conference at the end of Putin-Biden summit. However, the Kremlin said negotiations are continuing on the final format.

“We heard about such a possibility from our American counterparts, but we are still waiting for final confirmation, but since the very beginning President Putin has been open to any alternatives,” Peskov said.

G7 Leaders Expected to Sign Landmark Anti-Pandemic Health Declaration

G7 leaders will on Saturday be expected to sign the “Carbis Bay Declaration” on health, vowing to take steps to ensure the global devastation caused by Covid-19 is never repeated, according to a Downing Street statement Friday.

According to the statement, G7 leaders will commit to using all their resources to prevent a global pandemic from ever happening again, with the “Carbis Bay Declaration” to be a historic statement setting out a series of concrete commitments to prevent any repeat of the human and economic devastation wreaked by coronavirus.

G7 countries and guests will be joined by the UK’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance and Melinda French Gates who will present their “100-day mission” to speed up the time it takes to develop vaccines, treatments and diagnostics.

On the Carbis Bay Declaration, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday, “In the last year the world has developed several effective coronavirus vaccines, licensed and manufactured them at pace and is now getting them into the arms of the people who need them. But to truly defeat coronavirus and recover we need to prevent a pandemic like this from ever happening again.”

He added, “That means learning lessons from the last 18 months and doing it differently next time around. I am proud that for the first time today the world’s leading democracies have come together to make sure that never again will we be caught unawares.”

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “We welcome the Carbis Bay Health Declaration, particularly as the world begins to recover and rebuild from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Together we need to build on the significant scientific and collaborative response to the Covid-19 pandemic and find common solutions to address many of the gaps identified. To this end WHO welcomes and will take forward the UK’s proposal for a Global Pandemic Radar. As we discussed, the world needs a stronger global surveillance system to detect new epidemic and pandemic risks.”

China Will be a Key Topic at this year’s G7 Summit

China may not be a part of the Group of Seven, the informal club made up of the world’s largest and wealthiest democracies, but its presence will likely loom large over the groupings first face-to-face summit in almost two years.

China, and the ideological challenges posed by its rise, is set to be among the most pressing topics facing leaders of the G7.

In his first foreign trip as United States President, Joe Biden is expected to try to convince allies to join Washington in taking a tougher stance towards Beijing over its actions in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and the South China Sea among other areas.

Laying out his trip last week, Biden wrote in the Washington Post that “the United States must lead the world from a position of strength,” including on confronting the “harmful activities of the governments of China and Russia.”

In some areas, there are signs such a united front is already forming.

In a joint statement on Thursday, Biden and his British counterpart Boris Johnson vowed to support a further investigation into the origins of Covid-19, including in China.

Support from the UK and possibly other G7 members will add weight to Biden’s push for a reexamination on the origins of the virus, including new scrutiny on the lab leak theory. Beijing lashed out at Biden’s call last month, accusing Washington of “political manipulation to shift the blame.”

The summit is also reportedly expected to see the launch of a green alternative initially pushed by Biden to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative, with an aim to support sustainable development in developing countries.

Ransomware will be addressed at Every Stop of Biden’s Foreign Trip: Official

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said earlier this week that the administration will address ransomware, which he called a “national security priority” at every stop of President Biden’s first foreign trip as President, saying the US hopes to see commitments from its allies on how to address cyber threats.

“Ransomware is a national security priority, particularly as it relates to ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure in the United States, and we will treat it as such in the G7, we will treat it as such at every stop along the way on this trip,” Sullivan said at Monday’s White House press briefing.

Pressed by Phil Mattingly on what specific commitments the US would like to see on ransomware coming out of the G7 and NATO summits, Sullivan said he hopes there is the start of an “action plan” between the US and its allies across a number of critical areas in regards to continued ransomware threats.

“First, how to deal with the increasing the robustness and resilience of our defenses against ransomware attacks collectively. Second how to share information about the nature of the threat among our democracies. Third, how to deal with the cryptocurrency challenge which is lies at the core of how these ransom transactions are played out,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan added he wants to address how the countries at the G7 can “collectively speak with one voice to those countries, including Russia, that are harboring or permitting cyber criminals to operate from their territory.”

In an interview with Axios, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said President Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin is happening “not in spite of” the cyberattacks, but “because of them,” and Biden will warn Putin “directly and clearly what he can expect from the United States if aggressive, reckless actions toward us continue.”

“We will also speak in the NATO context about cyber threats, particularly as they relate to critical infrastructure, as being of a different order of magnitude of security threat that the alliance has to concern itself with in a way that it hasn’t historically, but it’s got to become a priority going forward,” Sullivan said.

Reported last Friday that Biden and White House officials are increasingly worried about a major attack on various sectors.

Second Day of G7 Summit

Here are key things to know about the Meeting;

President Biden’s first international trip since taking office includes a G7 summit, where he will look to reestablish US leadership on key global topics. The second day of the three-day summit is today in Carbis Bay, England.

Here’s what you need to know about the summit:

What is the G7?

The G7 is shorthand for Group of Seven, an organization of leaders from some of the world’s largest economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Russia was indefinitely suspended from the group — which was at the time known as the G8 – in 2014 after the majority of member countries allied against its annexation of Crimea.

What does the G7 do?

Members of the G7 meet each year for a summit to discuss global issues, such as international security and the world economy, and coordinate policy. This year, recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to be a big topic.

In a statement ahead of the summit, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would urge his fellow G7 leaders to make concrete commitments to vaccinate the world, as well as give support to the “Global Pandemic Radar” — a new global surveillance system intended to protect immunization programs.

What Power does the G7 have?

The group has often produced decisions with global consequences.

Ahead of this year’s summit, for instance, G7 finance ministers agreed to back a global minimum tax of at least 15% on multinational companies. The G7 group also agreed that the biggest companies should pay tax where they generate sales, and not just where they have a physical presence.

Author: Eliza Mackintosh, Peter Wilkinson, Melissa Macaya and Adrienne Vogt.
Editor’s note: The article reflects the author’s opinion only, and not necessarily the views of editorial opinion of Belt & Road News.