G7 infrastructure plan to challenge China

G7 infrastructure plan to challenge China

'Build Back Better World' plan for developing nations seen as a rival to Belt & Road

A man stands on a prop shark to draw attention to plastic pollution in the oceans during a protest at Gyllyngvase beach, Falmouth, during the G7 summit in Cornwall, England on Saturday. (Reuters Photo)
A man stands on a prop shark to draw attention to plastic pollution in the oceans during a protest at Gyllyngvase beach, Falmouth, during the G7 summit in Cornwall, England on Saturday. (Reuters Photo)

CARBIS BAY, England: The Group of Seven rich nations on Saturday backed a new global plan to help poorer countries build infrastructure in a bid to challenge China’s huge Belt and Road Initiative, the White House said.

US President Joe Biden’s administration said leaders of the G7, meeting in southwestern England, approved the launch of the Build Back Better World (B3W) plan which would help narrow a $40-trillion infrastructure gap in the developing world.

“Today President Biden met with G7 leaders to discuss strategic competition with China and commit to concrete actions to help meet the tremendous infrastructure need in low- and middle-income countries,” the White House said.

The G7 and other “like-minded” partners would coordinate to raise private-sector capital for investment in climate, health and health security, digital technology, and gender equity and equality, backed by development finance institutions.

“B3W will be global in scope, from Latin America and the Caribbean to Africa to the Indo-Pacific,” the White House said.

“Different G7 partners will have different geographic orientations, but the sum of the initiative will cover low- and middle-income countries across the world.”

The BRI has been advocated by Chinese President Xi Jinping since 2013 to increase Beijing’s influence abroad by financing and building infrastructure projects across Asia, Europe and Africa. It has faced criticism for its record of saddling poor countries with debt.

While details of the proposed infrastructure project are not immediately known, one US official briefing reporters on condition of anonymity said it would not just be an alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative, but would “beat” it by offering a higher-quality choice. 

While criticising the BRI for its lack of transparency and poor environmental and labour standards, the official said the G7 had so far not been able to offer a “positive alternative that reflects our values, our standards and our way of doing business”.

The remarks come amid an increasing rivalry between the United States and China, with the Biden administration framing the competition as a contest between democracies and autocracies.

The official noted that it is not the intention of the United States to force other countries to choose between the world’s two largest economies, but rather to show to others that democracies are a better model than autocracies.

“As we come together on this partnership, our G7 partners have agreed that our real purpose here is to demonstrate that democracies and open societies can come together and deliver a positive choice to meet some of the biggest challenges of our time, not just for our people, but for people all over the world,” he added.

The G7 project is likely to assist developing countries recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic, which fits with this year’s G7 summit theme to “build back better” from the pandemic and create a greener and more prosperous future.

The leaders of the G7 — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, plus the European Union — are scheduled to wrap up their discussions on Sunday, with a joint communique expected to be released.

While acknowledging that China is a key topic in the summit talks, it was unclear how much the communique would specifically mention the Asian country.

“We’re pushing for being specific on areas like Xinjiang, where forced labour is taking place and where we have to express our values as a G7,” the official said, referring to Beijing’s alleged human rights abuses of the Muslim Uyghur minority in its far-western region.

But he added, “It’s too early to say what will end up in the final (release).”

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