The new guy? Biden debuts at democracy’s most exclusive club

WASHINGTON – Angela, Boris, Emmanuel, Justin, Mario, Yoshihide and a relative newcomer: Joe.

They are the boards of the most elite club of global democracy, and they are meeting this week after four years of US disruption and two years of coronavirus interruption.

Already on a first-name basis with relationships that last only months to years, the leaders of the Group of Seven Industrial Democracies are gathering on Friday amid hopes that their most unruly member’s departure and personal friendship looms large. A new era has been propelled by face-to-face discussions could restore global anti-incumbency consensus on climate, coronavirus, China and Russia.

The G-7’s return to humble semi-normality comes as President Joe Biden seeks to restore a stable US leadership in the bloc, which was hampered by his predecessor Donald Trump’s often confrontational approach to longtime US allies. US officials believe Biden’s decades of experience in foreign policy, as well as his personal skills and people’s behavior, will dampen his displeasure.

Trump has thrown a wrench in G-7 unity, demanding full priority of US interests, threatening decades-old security guarantees, insulting allies and vehemently suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin be forced to meet Moscow’s demands. be invited back to the group even if denied. To stay out of Ukraine.

World leaders prepare to launch a working session on world economy and trade on the second day of the G-7 summit on August 25, 2019.
World leaders prepare to launch a working session on world economy and trade on the second day of the G-7 summit on August 25, 2019.

Biden aims to strike a new deal. Asked about his goals upon departure from Washington, Biden replied: “Strengthening the alliance and making it clear to Putin and China that Europe and the United States are tight, and the G-7 is going to move forward.” “

Two of the seven leaders to meet on Friday in Britain’s south-west Cornwall are new. Biden and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi took office within weeks of each other this year.

Two others have been in power for two years or less: Britain’s Boris Johnson since 2019, and Japan’s Yoshihide Suga since 2020. Yet the other three have a long history together, some of them dating Biden from his days in the Senate and as vice. President.

Germany’s Angela Merkel will attend her last G-7 summit before stepping down as chancellor in September after 16 years. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been in office since 2015 and French President Emmanuel Macron since 2017. Everyone had famous ties with Trump on trade, defense spending, climate change and other issues.

Trump once accused Trudeau of being “extremely dishonest and weak” in the context of the G-7 summit. He often equated Merkel and Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May and described Macron’s suspicions of NATO capabilities as “bad” and “outrageous”. Johnson was the exception, as Trump saw him as a similar iconoclastic sentiment.

Open hostility hindered the group’s ability to present a unified front. Biden hopes to quell those ties on his first foreign trip as president.

Since taking office, Biden has met in person with only one of his G-7 counterparts, Suga. But in virtual sessions and phone calls, he has tried to build his personal connections with others, saying he wants more in-person meetings.

“There is no substitute for one-on-one discussions,” Biden told Suga when they met at the White House in April. “Those personal bonds of friendship and connection are what will keep this alliance strong and alive for decades to come.”

Ronald Newman, retired president of the American Academy of Diplomacy and three-time US ambassador, said “good relationships” make doing business easier.

“You won’t find that people will act against their interests just because they’re friends, but it does mean it’s easier to negotiate if there are ways to bring interests closer together,” he said.

This had not happened in the Trump years. “My understanding is that we weren’t very interested in exploring areas to compromise — we were more interested in asking or asking others to do things our way,” Newman said.

As Biden has pursued some of the same policies as Trump, he has faced far less resistance than his predecessor, notably winning support for a military withdrawal from Afghanistan. After Biden announced he had generally decided to stick with Trump’s pullout plan, US allies warned against any early moves.

Similarly, Biden’s reversal of Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada was met with only a tacit response from Ottawa amid the new president’s outreach to Trudeau. “The United States has no closer friend – no closer friend than Canada. So as president you were my first call,” Biden told Trudeau.

On Wednesday, however, the sponsor of Keystone XL pulled the plug on the project after Canadian officials failed to persuade Biden to revoke his permit the day he took office.

Biden and Macron will meet in person for the first time, and French officials said Macron is looking forward to taking forward the discussions held by phone and video. A centrist, Macron did not hide that he was counting on the Paris climate agreement, minimum global corporate taxes and the election of Biden to bring the United States’ position closer to France on global security issues.

But, perhaps, no G-7 leader has been a bigger beneficiary than group head Merkel. Biden lashed out at Trump’s decision to reduce US military presence in Germany and used national security exemptions to avoid hitting a German company and its CEO with sanctions over a controversial pipeline.

“It is a fundamental truth of foreign policy that each country has its own values ​​and interests. But then of course there is also the difficult factor of understanding that can – or sometimes does not – build up between the leaders of the two sides, Merkel’s spokesman Stephen Seibert said. “And of course it’s better if it builds up, if one has a common culture of dialogue, if one listens to each other, if one has the other person’s stances and beliefs.” tries to understand.”

Johnson, meanwhile, is keen to ensure that Biden remains committed to Washington—London, especially as he continues to seek preferential post-Brexit trade conditions with the US, which were all guaranteed under Trump. .

Trump has explicitly praised Johnson and Britain for leaving the European Union, calling him the “Trump of Britain”. Biden reacted as a candidate, calling the British leader a “physical and emotional clone” of Trump. Still, the British government has worked hard to dispel that perception, emphasizing Johnson’s shared ground with Biden on issues such as climate change and his support for international institutions.


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