Biden moves to summits in Europe and Russia | Daily News

Biden moves to summits in Europe and Russia

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks with U.S. President Joe Biden during their meeting, ahead of the G7 summit, at Carbis Bay Hotel, on June 10, 2021 near St Ives, England.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks with U.S. President Joe Biden during their meeting, ahead of the G7 summit, at Carbis Bay Hotel, on June 10, 2021 near St Ives, England.

President Joe Biden, on the first foreign trip of his presidency, will launch an intense series of summits with G7, European and NATO partners before the meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

He will attend the G7 summit in the UK from Friday to Sunday. From there, in rapid succession, he will visit Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, fly to Brussels for summits with the NATO military alliance and European Union, then move to Geneva, where he meets Putin next Wednesday.

With the world still crawling out from under the wreckage of COVID-19, Biden is casting his diplomatic marathon as a return to badly needed US leadership.

But beyond the immediate challenges of boosting vaccine donations to poorer regions and reinvigorating post-pandemic economies, Biden’s agenda features the even bigger task of shoring up a somewhat-tattered group of western democracies against Russia and China.

“This is a defining question of our time,” Biden wrote in The Washington Post ahead of his trip. “Will the democratic alliances and institutions that shaped so much of the last century prove their capacity against modern-day threats and adversaries? I believe the answer is yes. And this week in Europe, we have the chance to prove it.”

Biden’s pitch marks a return to a traditional US worldview after four years of Donald Trump, who moved with autocrats and was not supportive of multilateralism. Trump argued that the United States can’t afford to be the world’s policeman, an isolationist stance popular with his voters.

There was friction between the US and its western allies last month when Washington blocked French attempts at the United Nations, to demand a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Biden’s ramping up of vaccine donations around the world also follows what critics saw as a long period of hoarding.

Biden’s meeting on the sidelines of NATO with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promises to be especially prickly.

Biden has irked Erdogan, a sometimes Trump ally, by highlighting Turkey’s dire human rights situation and recognizing the Ottoman Empire’s genocide against the Armenians. Washington risks “losing a precious friend,” Erdogan has warned.

Blinken told Congress on Tuesday that Turkey is often “not acting as the NATO ally it should be,” but Washington has “an interest in trying to keep Turkey anchored to the West.”

Expectations for the Putin summit are so low that simply making US-Russian relations “more stable” would be considered a success, Secretary of State Blinken and other White House officials say.

The White House sees the extension of the New START nuclear arms treaty in February as an example of where business can be done. Biden also needs the Kremlin to make progress with Iran, which is close to Russia.

Biden will also press Putin about sabre-rattling on the Ukrainian border, the imprisonment of opponent Alexei Navalny, and his support for Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarussian strongman who forced a Ryanair airliner to land in Minsk, then arrested an opponent on the flight.

US and UK

President Biden has issued a statement pledging to affirm his “special relationship” with Britain when he meets Boris Johnson at this week’s G7 summit in the UK and discuss matters including the impasse in Northern Ireland.

He states this group of leading democracies and economies has not met in person in two years due to the coronavirus. Ending this pandemic, improving health security for all nations and driving a robust, inclusive global economic recovery will be their top priorities.

Biden will also use his time during the summit to realise “America’s renewed commitment to our allies and partners”, and “rally the world’s democracies” against the most significant threats of the world, including the pandemic and climate change.

The US president is expected to speak to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson about disagreements over the Brexit deal, expressing support for its Northern Ireland protocol, which has met fierce opposition from unionists and loyalists who say it separates the region from the rest of the UK. He is expected to tell Johnson that the US sees the protocol as a crucial part of maintaining long-term peace in Northern Ireland and, in particular, the Good Friday agreement, for which the US is a guarantor.

Biden is also expected to warn Johnson that a potential trade deal between the US and the UK will be damaged if the situation is not resolved, while also telling leaders in Brussels that he expects the EU to be more “flexible” and less “bureaucratic”.

Biden, who is of Irish descent, reaffirmed his support for the Good Friday agreement in March after tensions over the protocol led to violent rioting. The protocol was set up initially to prevent a hard land border in Ireland by effectively keeping Northern Ireland inside the single market.

G7 Summit

The G7 (Group of Seven) is an organisation made up of the world’s seven largest so-called advanced economies - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States.

Russia joined it in 1998, creating the “G8”, but was excluded in 2014 for its takeover of Crimea. China is not a member, despite its large economy and having the world’s biggest population. Its relatively low level of wealth per person means it is not seen as an advanced economy in the way the G7 members are.

Representatives from the European Union are usually present at G7 summits, and India, South Korea and Australia have been invited this year.

The main topic at the G7 conversation will be COVID recovery, including “a stronger global health system that can protect us all from future pandemics”. The agenda also includes climate change and trade.

Leaders at the G7 summit will also call for a new, transparent investigation by the WHO into the origins of the coronavirus, following a call by President Biden to expand the American investigation into the origins of the pandemic.

The G7 summit is also expected to agree to deliver 1 bn extra doses of the COVID-19 vaccine over the next year to accelerate global protection against the disease.

Ahead of his arrival at the summit, Biden said the US would commit to buying 500m doses of the vaccine for distribution to developing countries.

G7 - Finance Ministers

Finance Ministers of the G7, who met last week, have struck a landmark deal to close cross-border tax loopholes used by some of the world’s biggest companies.

Rishi Sunak, UK Finance Minister and Host of the meeting said: “After years of discussion, G7 finance ministers have reached a historic agreement to reform the global tax system to make it fit for the global digital age.”

“This is the first step, this is an agreement reached at the G7, we still have to go to the G20 and reach agreement with a broader group of countries so it’s hard to say where the final deal will land.”

The new deal has been widely accepted by western leaders in financial and economic affairs, and also by the large companies engaged in global trade, especially in the new cyber sector.

Janet Yellen, US Treasury Secretary said: “This negotiation has been going on for, I believe, eight years. It stalled under the Trump administration. And so I really consider this a historic achievement, and it shows that multilateral collaboration can be successful.”

“It will include large profitable firms and those firms, I believe, will qualify by almost any definition.”

On support for the economic recovery, she said: “G7 economies have the fiscal space to speed up their recoveries to not only reach pre-COVID levels of GDP but also to support a return to pre-pandemic growth paths,” Yellen said. “This is why we continue to urge a shift in our thinking from ‘let’s not withdraw support too early’ to ‘what more can we do now.’”

Olaf Scholz, German Finance Minister said: “The seven most important industrial nations have today backed the concept of minimum taxation for companies. That is very good news for tax justice and solidarity and bad news for tax havens around the world.

“Companies will no longer be in a position to dodge their tax obligations by booking their profits in lowest-tax countries. Stable tax revenues are important for making sure states can carry out their duties. This will be even more urgent after the coronavirus pandemic.”

Bruno Le Maire, French Finance Minister said: “This is a starting point and in the coming months we will fight to ensure that this minimum corporate tax rate is as high as possible.”

The European Commissioner of economy, Paolo Gentiloni, said: “Big step taken by the G7 towards an unprecedented global agreement on tax reform. The EU Commission will contribute actively to making that happen at next month’s G20 in Venice.”

US Senate on China

The US Senate voted 68-32 on Tuesday to approve a sweeping package of legislation intended to boost the country’s ability to compete with Chinese technology.

The measure authorises about $190 billion for provisions to strengthen US technology and research - and would separately approve spending $54 billion to increase U.S. production and research into semiconductors and telecommunications equipment, including $2 billion dedicated to chips used by automakers that have seen massive shortages and made significant production cuts.

The bill must also pass the House of Representatives to be sent to the White House, where the Democrats have a small majority.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a co-sponsor of the measure, warned of the dire consequences of not funding research to keep up with China. “If we do nothing, our days as the dominant superpower may be ending. We don’t mean to let those days end on our watch. We don’t mean to see America become a middling nation in this century,” Schumer said.

Senator Todd Young, a Republican co-author, said the bill “is not only about beating the Chinese Communist Party, (it) is about using their challenge to become a better version of ourselves through investment in innovation.”

China has denounced the US Senate bill as an example of the US hyping up “the so-called China threat”, and accused Washington of attempting to hinder its development.

The foreign affairs committee of China’s ceremonial legislature, the National People’s Congress, expressed its “strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition”.

It said: “This bill seeks to exaggerate and spread the so-called China threat to maintain global American hegemony, using human rights and religion as excuses to interfere in China’s domestic politics, and deprive China of its legitimate development rights.”

Peru - Narrow division

A very narrow voter gap keeps the candidates for the Peruvian presidency divided. Peruvian socialist Pedro Castillo has widened his lead against right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori in the country’s presidential vote on Monday.

The official count from Sunday’s election showed outsider candidate Castillo with 50.3% and Fujimori on 49.7%, with around 95% of the vote counted. The leftist candidate had trailed overnight, but started to take a bigger share of ballots with a surge of real votes.

The vote underscored a sharp divide between the capital city Lima and the nation’s rural hinterland that has propelled Castillo’s unexpected rise.

Castillo, the son of peasant farmers, has pledged to shake up the Andean nation’s constitution and mining laws, spooking copper producers and local markets, which fell sharply in trading on Monday as he gained in the race.

Keiko Fujimori, 46, the daughter of ex-president Alberto Fujimori, who is in prison for human rights abuses and corruption, also appealed for “prudence, calm and peace from both groups.”

The final decision will come with the count of the votes from Peruvians living abroad, where Fujimori has more support.

Castillo’s sudden rise to prominence since winning the first-round vote in April has unnerved markets and spooked mining firms concerned over plans to sharply hike taxes on mineral profits and threats of nationalizations.

Fujimori has pledged to follow the free-market model and maintain economic stability in Peru, the world’s second largest copper producer, with a “a mother’s firm hand”.

Castillo, who has become a champion for the poor, has promised to redraft the constitution to strengthen the role of the state and take a larger portion of profits from mining firms.

UK aid cut

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set himself on a collision course with scores of his MPs on the decision to reduce the Foreign Aid budget, affecting many developing countries.

The Conervative Party has avoided a vote on it, early this week. Between 40 and 50 Conservative MPs are said to be considering new options, including legal action.

The move is to reduce aid from 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to 0.5%, around £4bn, despite concerns about the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker, said he would look at “other ways” to give MPs a binding vote on the issue – which cuts aid to some of the world’s poorest countries by 42% in the pandemic – if the government did not bring a vote itself.

The prime minister faces pressure from both sides of the Atlantic, with a number of senior Democratic members of US Congress writing to President Joe Biden asking him to urge the UK to restore its foreign aid budget. Signatories include Joaquin Castro, chair of a subcommittee on international development, who said: “Cutting back on foreign assistance during the worst humanitarian crisis of our generation only undermines our collective global response.”

Ministers have said the aid cut is necessary as a temporary measure – though they did not say for how long it would remain in place – because of economic damage wrought by the pandemic.

Indian Prime Minister on COVID situation

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an address to the nation this Monday, announced several decisions regarding the vaccination drive against coronavirus, and the handling of the current pandemic situation.

He announced that the Centre will take over the responsibility of COVID vaccination from states and provide free vaccines to all Indians aged 18 years and above. The central government will now procure 75 percent of vaccine doses from manufacturers, including the 25 per cent earlier reserved for states, and provide it free of cost to the state governments. This new arrangement will be put into effect from June 21, he said.

Private vaccination centres can continue to procure 25 percent of vaccine stocks from manufacturers as decided earlier. However, they can charge only Rs. 150 as service charge over and above the predetermined cost of doses. State governments will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of this measure.

The “PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana” has been extended till Diwali this year, under which poor households will get free ration under the scheme every month till November 2021. The move is estimated to benefit 80 crore Indians. The scheme was first launched in April 2020 during the first COVID-induced lockdown and later extended at the end of June.

The Prime Minister also said that while seven companies are manufacturing vaccines in the country, three vaccine candidates are in advanced trial stages. He also stated that two vaccines for children and a ‘nasal vaccine’ are also under trials.

He cautioned against those spreading rumours about COVID vaccines, who are playing with the lives of others. There is a need to stay vigilant against such elements, the PM said.

India has reported 94,052 new COVID -19 cases and 6,148 new deaths as this is being written. The country has so far reported a total of 29,183,121 cases and 359,676 deaths. The infection and death figures are declining.

Israel - Knesset meeting

The Israeli Parliament - Knesset - will meet tomorrow (Sunday 13) to vote on establishing the 36th government of Israel, by an eight-party coalition that is expected to see the ousting of PM Netanyahu, and the takeover by prime minister-designate Naftali Bennett of the Yamina party, and rotate the premiership with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.

If it obtains a majority, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be removed from power after 12 years, to be replaced by Bennett, and, two years later, Lapid.

Netanyahu is still battling to woo defectors to thwart the Bennett-Lapid government, and retain his position.

The new government will be the first Israeli government in which an Arab party, Ra’am, is a coalition member vital to the government’s majority.

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