US President Joe Biden rebooted his effort to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) after an earlier campaign faltered, enlisting the support of G7 leaders at their summit in Germany.
The Build Back Better World initiative, named after Biden’s domestic spending and climate agenda, struggled to get off the ground because not enough G7 partners contributed financially when it was unveiled a year ago, people familiar with its lack of progress said.
“When democracies demonstrate what we can do — all that we have to offer — I have no doubt that we’ll win that competition every time,” Biden said during an event on the sidelines of the summit.
The plan has been rebranded the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, and the US is calling on leaders to agree to fund the launch of projects in middle and low-income countries to the tune of US$600 billion over the next five years.
It would consist mostly of private sector investments, with some funding from the US International Development Finance Corp and the US Export-Import Bank, as well as commitments from foreign governments.
The US would contribute US$200 billion in total, although it is unclear what the split would be between private and public sector funding, and how the government plans to convince companies to take part.
There is the potential for the same challenges to crop up under the initiative’s latest incarnation, in part as the G7 prioritizes other issues such as taming inflation and dealing with the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) said his country welcomed any initiative that promoted global infrastructure at a regular news briefing in Beijing yesterday.
“We believe there’s no such thing as relevant initiatives countering or replacing each other,” he added. “What we oppose are moves to advance geopolitical calculations and smear the BRI in the name of promoting infrastructure development.”
Among the G7-backed projects announced on Sunday are US$2 billion in solar projects in Angola, a US$600 million contract to construct a submarine telecommunications cable that would connect Singapore to France through Egypt and the Horn of Africa, and US$14 million to support a design study for Romania’s deployment of a small modular reactor plant.
The official said the US would focus on investing in projects that help supply chain security by making the US and other allies less reliant on China.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy joined the summit via video link from Kyiv and said he wants the war to be over by the end of the year, officials familiar with his remarks said.
G7 leaders adopted a declaration pledging to support Zelenskiy and his government “for as long as it takes.”
US President Joe Biden is set to announce the purchase of an advanced surface-to-air missile defense system to help protect Ukrainian cities.
Zelenskiy addressed each of the leaders individually with a specific comment, the officials on condition of anonymity.
He requested support on flight defense systems, security and financing for reconstruction, as well as help on unblocking exports of the country’s grain.
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