The White House announced plans on Sunday to raise $200 billion for solar projects in Angola, an undersea telecommunications cable linking the Far East with France via Egypt, and nuclear power production in Romania as part of a huge G7 infrastructure plan designed to compete with China‘s massive Belt and Road initiative.
The proposals were unveiled on the first day of the G7 summit in Germany, where world leaders met to discuss the global economy and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
In all, G7 nations will commit $600 billion to the effort over the next five years, President Joe Biden announced, calling the investment a humanitarian, economic and security concern.
Biden spoke with the rest of G7 leadership standing behind him, the Bavarian Alps visible in the distance.
‘Developing countries often lack the central infrastructure to help navigate global shocks, like a pandemic, so they feel the impacts were acutely, and they have a harder time recovering,’ he said. ‘That’s not just humanitarian concern. It’s an economic and a security concern for all of us.’
The money will be spent in a variety of sectors, including health, climate, energy and gender equity.
‘These strategic investments are areas of critical to sustainable development, and our shared global stability, health and health security, digital connectivity, gender equality and equity, climate and energy security,’ Biden said.
He argued the investment would boost the U.S. economy and economies around the world.
‘I want to be clear this isn’t charity. It’s an investment that will deliver returns for everyone, including the American people and the people of all our nations. It will boost all of our economies. It’s a chance for us to share our positive vision for the future,’ he said.
The White House said its $200 billion in grants and federal financing would help low income countries meet their economic and national security needs.
‘And this will only be the beginning: the United States and its G7 partners will also seek to mobilize hundreds of billions in additional capital from other like-minded partners, multilateral development banks, development finance institutions, sovereign wealth funds, and more,’ said the White House.
Biden named the idea ‘Build Back Better World’ – after his troubled domestic agenda – when he introduced it at last year’s G7 summit.
Now it is called the Partnership for Global Infrastructure.
The White House said it would ‘mobilize hundreds of billions of dollars and deliver quality, sustainable infrastructure that makes a difference in people’s lives around the world, strengthens and diversifies our supply chains, creates new opportunities for American workers and businesses, and advances our national security.’
A senior administration official said the plans would help countries grow, contrasting the impact with projects funded by China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
‘I think many countries that have received funding or investment, so called investment, from the BRI have now after years of receiving that investment realized that they are further in debt, that their GDP hasn’t grown significantly, that the so called investments from BRI have not reached their populations,’ said the official.
Critics accuse Beijing of a manipulative global strategy by funding major infrastructure projects in developing nations with unsustainable loans.
The debt is then used to gain leverage over those governments.
Biden’s plans include $2 billion for solar mini-grids, solar cabins with telecommunications capabilities in Angola; a $3.3 million grant to help begin work on a vaccine plant in Senegal; and a $600 million contract for an American telecoms company to build a submarine cable to connect Singapore with France through Egypt and the Horn of Africa.
There is also money to study building a new type of nuclear reactor in Romania
Biden’s day in the Bavarian Alps began with a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Sholz, and a promise that Vladimir Putin would not divide the G7 or NATO.
‘Thank you thank you… we have to stay together,’ he told Olaf Scholz as they looked out at the stunning mountain view at Schloss Elmau, the grand setting for the summit.
‘Because Putin is counting on from the beginning that NATO and the G7 would splinter. But we haven’t and we’re not going to.’
Russia and Ukraine will dominate the summit, as G7 leaders assess how well sanctions are working. They will also discuss the world’s worsening economic climate.
The timing of the summit could not be more timely with Ukrainian forces losing ground in the east of the country, and rockets falling on the capital Kyiv for the first time in three weeks.
Scholz was waiting for Biden at a pavilion with panoramic Alpine views when Biden arrived on the decking.
The two leaders took a moment to soak up the setting before sitting down to discuss the day’s agenda.
‘Don’t jump,’ Biden joked to Scholz when he saw him standing at the scenic deck overlook, the mountains visible in the distance.
He removed his signature aviator sunglasses and shook Scholz hand, telling him ‘good to see you.’
I used to ski too I haven’t skied in a while,’ continued Biden. ‘It’s beautiful.’
Then it was down to business.
In a statement after the meeting, the White House said the two also discussed climate issues and economic resilience.
‘Finally, the leaders also discussed the challenges posed by China and our shared commitment to provide transparent and high-standard solutions to address global gaps in key infrastructure,’ it said.
But Ukraine overshadowed much of the day, with Russian forces launching their first strikes on the capital Kyiv in weeks.
‘It’s more of their barbarism,’ said Biden during the official welcome ceremony for G7 leaders.
Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs Dmytro Kuleba tweeted a photo of a young girl being carried out of the rubble, strapped to a stretcher and being aided by emergency workers. Her father was killed and her mother was injuried, according to local reports.
‘This 7 y.o. Ukrainian kid was sleeping peacefully in Kyiv until a Russian cruise missile blasted her home. Many more around Ukraine are under strikes. G7 summit must respond with more sanctions on Russia and more heavy arms for Ukraine. Russia’s sick imperialism must be defeated,’ Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
Culture minister Oleksandr Tkachenko told local media that a kindergarten was hit. Before Sunday’s attack, Kyiv had not faced any Russian airstrikes since June 5.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told reporters in Kyiv that he believed the strike ‘is maybe a symbolic attack’ ahead of this week’s NATO summit in Madrid.
But the leaders in Germany openly mocked Putin as they sat down for lunch, joking about his infamous barechested horseback riding photo.
Their laughter came as Biden was working to hold the western alliance in lockstep as the war in Ukraine entered its fifth month and Russia dropped bombs on Kyiv for the first time in weeks.
‘Jackets on? Jackets off? Shall we take our clothes off?’ British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked as he sat down at the table with his fellow leaders of the world’s biggest economies.
‘Let’s wait for the picture,’ Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. Officials were trying to take an official photo of the luncheon with the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.
‘We have to show that we’re tougher than Putin,’ Johnson said.
Trudeau then added: ‘We’re going to get the bare chested horseback riding display.’
He was referring to a 2009 photo of a shirtless Putin riding a horse in the mountains of the Siberian Tyva region during vacation.