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Biden to G-7 Heads: Compete With China 06/12 09:08

   Leaders of the world's largest economies on Saturday unveiled an 
infrastructure plan for the developing world to compete with China's efforts, 
but the democracies didn't immediately agree on how to publicly call out 
Beijing, including for its forced labor practices.

   CARBIS BAY, England (AP) -- Leaders of the world's largest economies on 
Saturday unveiled an infrastructure plan for the developing world to compete 
with China's efforts, but the democracies didn't immediately agree on how to 
publicly call out Beijing, including for its forced labor practices.

   The proposal on labor practices is part of President Joe Biden's escalating 
campaign to get fellow democratic leaders to present a more unified front to 
compete economically with China in the century ahead. But while they agreed to 
work toward competing against China, there was less unity on how adversarial a 
position the group should take with Beijing.

   Canada, the United Kingdom and France largely agreed with Biden's 
exhortation to condemn China's forced labor practices, while Germany, Italy and 
the European Union showed more hesitancy in Saturday's first session of the 
Group of Seven summit, according to a senior Biden administration official who 
briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity because they were not 
authorized to discuss the plans publicly.

   White House officials have said Biden wants G-7 leaders to speak in a single 
voice against forced labor practices targeting Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic 
minorities. Biden hopes the denunciation will be part of a joint communique to 
be released Sunday when the summit ends, but some European allies are reluctant 
to so forcefully split with Beijing.

   China had become one of the more compelling sublots of the wealthy nations 
summit on the freshly raked sand of Carbis Bay in southwest England for their 
first gathering since 2019. Last year's gathering was canceled because of 
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 1 billion vaccine shots with struggling countries.

   The allies also took the first steps in unveiling an infrastructure proposal 
dubbed "Build Back Better for the World," a name echoing the American 
president's campaign slogan. The plan calls for spending hundreds of billions 
of dollars in collaboration with the private sector while adhering to climate 
standards and labor practices.

   It's designed to compete with China's trillion-dollar "Belt and Road 
Initiative," which has launched a network of projects and maritime lanes that 
already snake around large portions of the world, primarily Asia and Africa. 
Critics say China's projects often create massive debt and expose nations to 
undue influence by Beijing.

   Britain also wants the world's democracies to become less reliant on 
economic giant China. The U.K. government said Saturday's discussions will 
tackle "how we can shape the global system to deliver for our people in support 
of our values," including by diversifying supply chains that currently heavily 
depend on China.

   Not every European power has viewed China in as harsh a light as Biden, who 
has painted the rivalry with the techno-security state as the defining 
competition for the 21st century. But there are some signs that Europe is 
willing to put greater scrutiny on Beijing.

   Before Biden took office in January, the European Commission announced it 
had come to terms with Beijing on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, a 
deal meant to provide Europe and China greater access to each other's markets. 
The Biden administration had hoped to have consultations on the pact.

   But the deal has been put on hold, and the European Union in March announced 
sanctions targeting four Chinese officials involved with human rights abuses in 
Xinjiang. Beijing responded by imposing sanctions on several members of the 
European Parliament and other Europeans critical of the Chinese Communist Party.

   Biden administration officials see the moment as an opportunity to take 
concrete action to speak out against China's reliance on forced labor as an 
"affront to human dignity."

   While calling out China in the communique wouldn't create any immediate 
penalties for Beijing, one senior administration official said the action was 
meant to send a message that the G-7 was serious about defending human rights 
and working together to eradicate the use of forced labor.

   An estimated 1 million people or more -- most of them Uyghurs -- have been 
confined in reeducation camps in China's western Xinjiang region in recent 
years, according to researchers. Chinese authorities have been accused of 
imposing forced labor, systematic forced birth control, torture and separating 
children from incarcerated parents.

   Beijing rejects allegations that it is committing crimes.

   The G-7 leaders -- the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and 
Italy -- also hope three days of meetings at a seaside resort in southwestern 
England will help energize the global economy and sharpen a focus on combating 
climate change. The leaders were slated to attend a barbecue Saturday night and 
listen to sea shanties.

   Hundreds of environmental protesters took to the Cornish seaside early 
Saturday in a bid to draw the attention to climate issues. A crowd of surfers, 
kayakers and swimmers gathered on a beach in Falmouth for a mass "paddle out 
protest" organized by Surfers Against Sewage, a group campaigning for more 
ocean protections.

   British Prime Minister Johnson opened the summit on Friday by warning that 
the world must not repeat errors of the past 18 months , or those made during 
the recovery from the 2008 global financial crisis. If not, he said the 
pandemic "risks being a lasting scar" that entrenched inequalities.

   Johnson said the goal of the measures was "to make sure that never again 
will we be caught unawares."

   Brexit will also cast a shadow Saturday as 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 hold talks with Biden -- a meeting between allies who 
recalibrated relations during the four years of President Donald Trump's 
"America first" foreign policy.

   Biden ends the trip Wednesday by meeting in Geneva with Russia's Vladimir 
Putin. The White House announced Saturday that they will not hold a joint news 
conference afterward, which removes 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.

   Only Biden will address the news media. Aides have suggested there was 
little interest in elevating Putin further by having the two men appear 
together in such a format. Others have expressed concern that Putin could try 
to score points on Biden, 78, who will be in the final hours of a grueling 
eight-day European trip.

   Putin, in an interview with NBC News, portions of which aired Friday, said 
the U.S.-Russia relationship had "deteriorated to its lowest point in recent 
years."

   He added that while Trump was a "talented" and "colorful" person, Biden was 
a "career man" in politics, which has "some advantages, some disadvantages, but 
there will not be any impulse-based movements" by the U.S. president.

 
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