In his first big appearance on the global stage, President Joe Biden promised the Group of Seven (G7) leaders during the virtual Munich Security Conference that the United States was recommitted to multilateral engagement.
“America is back,” he said on Friday, breaking away from his predecessor Donald Trump’s isolationist foreign policy that saw the US withdraw from significant global agreements and alliances.
“Our partnerships have endured and grown through the years because they are rooted in the richness of our shared democratic values. They’re not transactional. They’re not extractive. They’re built on a vision of the future where every voice matters,” he said.
“I know the past few years of strain [have] tested our transatlantic relationship, but the United States is determined – determined to re-engage with Europe,” he said.
Biden told US allies that they must stand firm against the challenges posed by China, Russia and Iran, saying Russia was seeking to weaken the transatlantic alliance and calling for a united front to counter what he called China’s abusive economic practices.
Biden arrived bearing gifts – a $4bn pledge of support for global coronavirus vaccination efforts, the re-entry of the US into the Paris Agreement climate accord and the prospect of a nearly $2 trillion spending measure that could bolster both the US and global economies.
Biden first met G7 leaders from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan by videoconference on Friday. He plans to join them for an in-person summit hosted by the UK this summer.
Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from the United Nations in New York, said Biden’s speech signalled the US’s return to multilateralism.
“‘America is back’ was the main theme of the speech, a theme of global cooperation, and also of the US standing by Europe’s side”, he said.
“He was clear when he spoke about China and Russia that this new Biden administration was going to stand up to them – but also on key issues like COVID-19 and the climate crisis, work together with them, too”.
‘A shared commitment’
European Union chief executive Ursula von der Leyen told the conference that Europe and the US should join together in the fight against climate change and also agree to a new framework for the digital market, limiting the power of big tech companies.
“I am sure: A shared transatlantic commitment to a net-zero emissions pathway by 2050 would make climate neutrality a new global benchmark,” von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said.
“Together, we could create a digital economy rule book that is valid worldwide: A set of rules based on our values, human rights and pluralism, inclusion and the protection of privacy.”
French President Emmanuel Macron told the leaders that Europe and the US should without delay send enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to Africa to inoculate the continent’s healthcare workers or risk losing influence to Russia and China.
Macron said Africa needed 13 million doses to vaccinate all its health workers, a milestone that would help protect healthcare services.
“If we announce billions today to supply doses in six months, eight months, a year, our friends in Africa will, under justified pressure from their people, buy doses from the Chinese and the Russians,” Macron told the Munich Security Conference. “And the strength of the West will be a concept, and not a reality.”
A ‘new chapter’
For her part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany was ready for a “new chapter” in transatlantic relations in which the US and Europe follow a joint agenda.
“In our principles and our values, in our faith in democracy and its ability to take action, we have a broad, good foundation,” she said.
“There is much to be done, and Germany stands ready for a new transatlantic chapter.”
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the launch of a global vaccination plan under the auspices of the Group of 20 leading economies to help head off the coronavirus pandemic.
Guterres told the conference that an emergency task force was needed to draw up a strategy along with overseeing the sharing of excess dosages between nations, which could help poor countries to stem the crisis.
The UN chief said countries as well as “companies that have scientific experience and logistics” should form part of the global plan.