The G7 was stronger on values ​​than hard cash

Since his election as President of the United States, Joe Biden has not missed an opportunity to announce itAmerica is back». The underlying message of the G7 summit that is coming to a conclusion in Cornwall could be summed up as “the West is back”. The goal of the assembled leaders was to show unity, purpose and leadership in tackling the world’s problems – and reaching out to the wider world.

This was the first meeting at the back of the G7 nations – the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada and Italy – since the outbreak of the pandemic and the defeat of Donald Trump. But, while leaders gathered in Cornwall showed up very ambitious, the summit leaves behind big questions whether the delivery of the G7 will correspond to its rhetoric.

This delivery issue hangs on many of the major issues the G7 has addressed – including vaccines, climate and the effort to create an international infrastructure to rival China’s Belt and Road initiative.

In vaccines, the G7 has promise to deliver one billion doses to the developing world in a year. But this number that sounds impressive may also be too little and too late. The World Health Organization has he said the world needs 11 billion doses of vaccine to effectively fight Covid-19. And an implant that can take 18 months will mean a lot more deaths – and a lot of time to develop new strains resistant to the virus vaccination.

Competition with China was the underlying theme of much of the G7 summit. But the Chinese government is likely to promise a larger number of vaccines to the world wider than the G7. However, doubts about the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines may mean that this is a mixed blessing.

The G7’s willingness to push against China’s growing global influence was most evident in the group’s support for a Western alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative to build infrastructure around the world. of development. The idea is that u Option G7 it will offer higher environmental standards and more transparency for lending and governance.

But it’s also likely to offer much less money – a point on which the G7 communication becomes remarkably vague. Meanwhile, Chinese banks and companies are already busy working on important projects around the world – such as building a new one. capital for Egypt.

Beyond the announcements and headlines, there is the deeper question about how united the Western world really is in its decision to oppose Chinese influence. Even on the margins of the G7, it was clear that the language used by the United States and Japan was noticeably stronger than the rhetoric of Europeans.

The four nations invited to join the G7 in Cornwall – particularly India and Australia – are clearly important to any effort to organize the democratic world to face China. But speaking just before the G7 summit, Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, stressed the need for Europe to maintain its “independence when it comes to our strategy for China.” This sentiment would be shared by Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and also, to some extent, by Boris Johnson. The British prime minister is described by an exasperated official, from an allied nation, as “always wanting to have his cake and eat it in China”.

The G7 cannot avoid the reality that Chinese cooperation is essential to tackling climate change. What the reunited leaders have been trying to do in Cornwall is to provide leadership to the global effort. They have announced ambitious plans to shut down polluting coal-fired power plants as soon as possible – and to protect 30 per cent of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030. The official statement was inevitably a little light on the details. But the suspicion remains that practical steps to achieve these goals will not be reached.

After Cornwall, Biden’s next stop is a NATO summit in Brussels – followed by a meeting with Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. The G7 announcement made a point calling an investigation into the use of chemical weapons on Russian soil – and also condemning Russia’s tolerance of ransomware attacks launched from its ground. The hope is that Putin will be impressed by the decision-making demonstrations and Western unity held in Cornwall and Brussels.

This year’s G7 summit certainly made a stark contrast to the Trump years, when the U.S. president seemed much more passionate about inflaming divisions with former allies than showing unity. Even Johnson, sympathetic to Trump, was probably sincere when he described Biden as a “breath of fresh air” for the Western alliance.

Putin – like Chinese President Xi Jinping – will take note that things have clearly changed in the Western alliance, with Trump’s departure from the White House. But will Russian and Chinese leaders be intimidated or punished? Maybe not yet.

Follow Gideon Rachman with myFT and also Twitter

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