Biden says U.S. is "back at the table" as G-7 summit comes to close
President Biden on Sunday declared that "America is back to the table" after leaving his first Group of Seven summit, where world leaders vowed to confront China, boost global infrastructure and donate 1 billion vaccine doses to the rest of the world.
"I conveyed to each of my G-7 counterparts the U.S. is going to do our part. America is back to the table," the president said in a press conference at the conclusion of the meeting with U.S. allies. "The lack of participation in the past and full engagement was noticed significantly, not only by the leaders of those countries but by the people in the G-7 countries."
Mr. Biden called the meeting, his first with the group since assuming the presidency, "extraordinary collaborative and productive," and said ending the coronavirus pandemic and ensuring an "equitable and inclusive" global economic recovery were the foremost priorities for the U.S. and its allies.
In a 25-page communique issued on the last day of the three-day meeting, the leaders of the G-7 countries — the U.S., the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — committed to cracking down on the use of forced labor, fighting ransomware and combating corruption while calling out China and Russia for human rights abuses.
"We know that corruption undermines the trust in government, siphons off public resources, makes economies much less competitive and constitutes a threat to our security," the president said.
Mr. Biden left the summit Sunday morning and plans to meet with Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle on Sunday before heading to Brussels for meetings with NATO and European Union leaders. He will conclude his first trip overseas at a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday.
The president told reporters he agrees with Putin that U.S.-Russia relations are at a "low point," but acknowledged there are areas in which the two countries can work together.
"Russia has engaged in activities which we believe are contrary to international norms but they have also bitten off some real problems they're going to have trouble chewing on," Mr. Biden said.
On the issue of forced labor, the communique said the U.S. and the G-7 nations will "continue to work together including through our own available domestic means and multilateral institutions to protect individuals from forced labour and to ensure that global supply chains are free from the use of forced labour." The group also said it will "promote our values, including by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang" and Hong Kong.
"I think we're in a contest, not with China per se, but a contest with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world as to whether democracies can compete with them in the rapidly changing 21st century," Mr. Biden said. "And I think how we act and whether we pull together as democracies is going to determine whether our grandkids look back 15 years from now and say, 'Did they step up? Are democracies as relevant and as powerful as they have been?'"
The G-7 countries backed a 15% global minimum tax on multinational corporations on a "country-by-country basis" to create "a fairer tax system fit for the 21st century, and reversing a 40-year race to the bottom."
The seven nations, the wealthiest liberal democracies in the world, also pledged to sending 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses around the globe. Half of those will come from the U.S., Mr. Biden said.
"The fact is that we, the U.S. contribution, is the foundation to work out how we're going to deal with 100 nations that are poor and having trouble finding vaccines and having trouble dealing with reviving their economies," the president said.
The G-7 allies also called for "a timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based" Phase II study convened by the World Health Organization that examines the origins of COVID-19, including in China.
The president said it's crucial for the world to know whether the pandemic was a consequence of human contact with infected animals or the result of a leak from a lab in Wuhan, China.
"Lack of transparency might produce another pandemic," he said. "We have to have access. The world has to have access."
After Sunday's press conference, Mr. Biden will have tea with Queen Elizabeth before heading off to Brussels. On Friday, Mr. Biden and first lady Jill Biden participated in a reception with other leaders and their spouses as well as members of the British royal family.
Bo Erickson and Fin Gomez contributed to this report.
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