The Group of Seven (G7) unveiled a major infrastructure initiative for low-income countries in a bid to counter China’s multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, dubbed the “New Road.” Silk “.
Promising to “collectively catalyze” hundreds of billions of infrastructure investments for low and middle income countries, G7 leaders said on Saturday they would offer a “values-driven, high-level and transparent” partnership. .
The announcement came as the leaders of the G7 countries – the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France and Japan – gathered in the seaside resort of Carbis Bay, in the southwest of England.
Their “Build Back Better World” (B3W) project, championed by the administration of US President Joe Biden, is squarely aimed at competing with the Belt and Road initiative, which has been widely criticized for having burdened small countries with unmanageable debt. .
The White House said in a declaration that the initiative aims to “help reduce the infrastructure needs of more than $ 40 trillion in the developing world, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“It’s not just about facing or facing China,” said a senior US official. “It is about providing an affirmative and positive alternative vision for the world.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose nation has huge investments in China, called it an “important initiative” that Africa badly needed.
“We cannot stand idly by and say that China will do it, but it is the ambition of the G7 to have a positive agenda for a number of countries in the world which are still lagging behind … rejoice, “she said.
In a report from the summit, Al Jazeera diplomatic editor James Bays said the B3W project was something that US officials were calling for and that they “clearly have the support” of other G7 leaders.
“They say he [B3W] will be international environmental assembly and labor standards, unlike the Belt and Road initiative, said Bays, who however noted that although it is an ambitious idea, it came “very late”.
“The Belt and Road Initiative has been around for eight years; it is very well developed, it is there in practice. While this is just a dream right now, ”he said.
Bays added that funding for the B3W project remains a big question mark, because “US officials briefing reporters said they estimated there was a $ 14 trillion infrastructure gap … of here 2035 “.
Ryan Patel, principal investigator at the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University, told Al Jazeera that it will take time for the G7 countries to establish the B3W project, “but I think they can provide a competitive alternative. “to the Belt and Road of China. Initiative.
Patel said China and the G7 countries hope to diversify their trading partners, especially in light of an economic downturn linked to the coronavirus. “What China is doing, as well as [what] the other G7 countries are doing, they are trying to be more independent, ”he said.
While the G7 agreed to work to compete with China, there was less unity on how a competing public stance the group should take.
Canada, the UK and France broadly supported Biden’s position, while Germany, Italy and the European Union were more reluctant during the first session of the summit on Saturday, according to a senior official in the Biden administration, who requested anonymity.
White House officials have said Biden wants the leaders of the G7 countries to speak with one voice against forced labor practices targeting Uyghur Muslims in China and other ethnic minorities.
According to researchers, around one million people – most of them Uyghurs – have been confined to re-education camps in China’s western Xinjiang region in recent years.
Human rights group Amnesty International in a recent report said Xinjiang has become a “dystopian hellish landscape.”
Chinese authorities have been accused of imposing forced labor, systematic birth control, torture and separation of children from their imprisoned parents. Beijing rejects allegations that it commits crimes.
Biden is hoping the denunciation will be part of a joint statement to be released at the end of the summit on Sunday, but some European allies are reluctant to part ways with Beijing so forcefully.