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AFP
June 13, 2021

G7 rivals China with grand infrastructure plan for poorer nations

AFP
June 13, 2021

Carbis Bay, United Kingdom: G7 leaders on Saturday adopted a rival plan to oppose China´s Belt and Road Initiative by helping build infrastructure in poorer nations in a "values-driven, high-standard and transparent" partnership.

The adoption of the US-inspired "Build Back Better World" (B3W) project came after President Joe Biden and leaders met to address "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.

China has been widely criticised for saddling small countries with unmanageable debt as part of its trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, which has seen money lent for projects stretching across Asia, Africa, Latin America and even Europe.

President Xi Jinping launched the BRI in 2013 to significantly expand China´s economic and political influence, with many of the infrastructure plans seen as helping deliver its goods globally.

China denies any ulterior motives to the vast investment project.

But critics argue it uses the financial leverage arising from the scheme to boost its clout, in what they dub "debt-trap diplomacy".

The White House said the G7 initiative would be similarly global in scope, estimating that the developing world needs more than $40 trillion in infrastructure, a gap "which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic".

"B3W will collectively catalyse hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries in the coming years," it said.

Funding will emphasise the environment and climate, labour safeguards, transparency, and anti-corruption, it added, in implicit contrast to China´s opaque funding.

The issue is close to home for the elite club of wealthy democracies.

Italy was the first member nation to sign on to the BRI, infuriating Washington as well as much of the European Union.

President Xi visited the country on a 2019 tour of Europe, with Italy´s formal signing of Belt and Road deals the centrepiece of the trip.

EU member Greece is another backer of the scheme. A notable 2008 deal by its then conservative government ceded container terminals at the main port of Piraeus to Chinese shipping giant Cosco.

The G7 countries also signed a new accord to prevent future pandemics, as the elite group sought to showcase Western unity at its first in-person summit since 2019.

The collective steps include slashing the time taken to develop and license vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for any future disease to under 100 days, while reinforcing global surveillance networks.

The G7 -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States -- will formally publish the pact on Sunday, alongside its final communique containing further details on the B3W.

"The #CarbisBayDeclaration marks a proud and historic moment for us all," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter.

"Under this agreement, the world´s leading democracies will commit to preventing a global pandemic from ever happening again, ensuring the devastation caused by Covid-19 is never repeated," he said.

The G7 leaders are expected to pledge to donate one billion vaccine doses to poor countries this year and next -- although campaigners say the rollout is much too slow to end the crisis sooner.

The leaders are also set to issue new commitments on climate change, including financial aid for the developing world, in the buildup to the UN´s COP26 environmental summit in Scotland in November.