CARBIS BAY, England (AP) — World leaders unveiled an infrastructure
plan for the developing world on Saturday to compete with China
’s efforts, but the democracies couldn’t agree on how to publicly criticize Beijing
, including for its forced labor
The proposal on labor practices is part of President Joe Biden
's escalating campaign to persuade fellow democratic
leaders to present a more unified front in order to compete economically with China in the century ahead. However, while they agreed to work
toward competing with China, there was less agreement on how adversarial a stance the group should take with Beijing.
According to a senior Biden administration
official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the pla, Canada
, the United Kingdom
, and France
largely agreed with Biden's exhortation to condemn China's forced labor practices, while Germany
, and the European Union
showed more hesitancy in Saturday's first session of the Group of Seven summit.
According to White House
officials, Biden wants G-7
leaders to speak out against forced labor practices that target Uyghur Muslims
and other ethnic minorities. Biden hopes the denunciation will be included in a joint communique released after the summit concludes on Sunday, but some European allies are hesitant to so forcefully split with Beijing.
China has emerged as one of the more compelling sublots of the wealthy nations’ summit, which is taking place on the freshly raked sands of Carbis Bay in southwest England
for the first time since 2019. Last year’s gathering was canceled due to COVID-19
, and recovery from the pandemic
is dominating this year’s discussions, with members of the wealthy democracies’ club expected to commit to sharing at least one billion dollars.
The allies also took the first steps toward unveiling an infrastructure proposal dubbed “Build Back Better for the World,” which is a play on the American president’s campaign slogan, and calls for spending hundreds of billions of dollars in collaboration with the private sector while adhering to climate standards and labor practices.
It is intended to compete with China's trillion-dollar "Belt and Road Initiative," which has already launched a network of projects and maritime lanes that snake around large portions of the world, primarily Asia and Africa. Critics say China's projects frequently create massive debt and expose nations to undue influence from Beijing.
Britain also wants the world’s democracies to become less reliant on economic behemoth China. The U.K. government stated on Saturday that the discussions will focus on “how we can shape the global system to deliver for our people
in support of our values,” including by diversifying supply chains that are currently heavily reliant on China.
Not every European power has viewed China as harshly as Biden, who has painted the rivalry with the techno-security state as the defining competition of the twenty-first century, but there are signs that Europe is willing to put greater scrutiny on Beijing.
Before Biden took office in January, the European Commission
announced that it had reached an agreement with Beijing on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, which is intended to give Europe and China greater access to each other's markets; the Biden administration had hoped to hold consultations on the pact.
However, the agreement has been halted, and the European Union announced sanctions
against four Chinese officials involved in human rights
violations in Xinjiang in March, prompting Beijing to impose sanctions on several members of the European Parliament and other Europeans critical of the Chinese Communist Party.
Officials in the Biden administration see this as an opportunity to take concrete steps to condemn China's use of forced labor as an "affront to human dignity."
While naming China in the communique would not result in immediate penalties, one senior administration official said the action was intended to send a message that the G-7 was serious about defending human rights and working together to end the use of forced labor.
According to researchers, an estimated one million people or more, mostly Uyghurs, have been imprisoned in reeducation camps in China's western Xinjiang region in recent years, with Chinese authorities accused of imposing forced labor, systematic forced birth control, torture, and separating children
from incarcerated parents.
Beijing strongly denies any wrongdoing.
The leaders of the United States
, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan
, and Italy also hope that three days of meetings at a seaside resort in southwestern England will help energize the global economy
and sharpen the focus on combating climate change
. The leaders were scheduled to attend a barbecue Saturday night and listen to sea shanties.
A crowd of surfers, kayakers, and swimmers gathered on a beach in Falmouth early Saturday for a mass “paddle out protest
” organized by Surfers Against Sewage, a group campaigning for more ocean
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
opened the summit on Friday by warning that the world must not repeat the mistakes of the previous 18 months, or those made during the recovery from the 2008 global financial crisis, or else the pandemic will be a “lasting scar” that entrenches inequalities.
The measures, according to Johnson, are intended to “ensure that we are never caught off guard again.”
Brexit will also cast a shadow on Saturday, when Johnson meets separately with European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel
and French President Emmanuel Macron
amid tensions over Britain's implementation of U.K.-EU divorce
terms. Macron will also meet with Biden — a meeting between allies who rebalanced relations during President Donald Trump
's four-year "America first" folly.
The trip concludes with Biden meeting with Russia
's Vladimir Putin
in Geneva on Wednesday. The White House announced Saturday that they will not hold a joint news conference
following the meeting, which eliminates the opportunity for comparisons to the availability that followed Trump and Putin's 2018 Helsinki summit, in which Trump sided with Moscow
over his own intelligence agencies.
Aides have indicated that there is little interest in elevating Putin further by having the two men appear together in such a format, while others have expressed concern that Putin may try to score points on Biden, 78, who is in the final hours of an exhausting eight-day European trip.
Putin said in an interview
News that the US-Russia relationship had "deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years" in a segment that aired Friday.
He went on to say that, while Trump is a "talented" and "colorful" individual, Biden is a "career man" in politics
, which has "some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will be no impulse-based movements" by the US president.
writers Danica Kirka and Sylvia Hui in Falmouth, England, and Lemire from Plymouth, England, contributed reporting.