President Joe Biden made a virtual trip to Europe on Friday when he joined his first G7 meeting where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed him to the world leader club and accused him of stealing one of his slogans.
Johnson joked Biden had nicked his ‘build back better’ soundbite as he hosted an online meeting of the G7, a group of the world’s richest nations.
Forced to meet virtually due the coronavirus pandemic, the leaders suffered from a microphone malfunction – the kind that has plagued many work places struggling to meet online.
Johnson had to ask Germany’s Angela Merkel to mute herself at the start.
When he began the meeting, the chancellor suddenly interrupted him as he tried to tell the others, including new Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, that he wanted a face-to-face meeting at the G7 summit in June.
‘Can you hear us Angela,’ Johnson quipped over the German, chuckling. ‘I think you need to mute.’
Johnson, this year’s chair of the G7, pressed his counterparts in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States to release some of their COVID vaccine supply so poorer nations can receive, a move that would help end the pandemic worldwide.
Johnson urged the G7 leaders to work together on ‘building back better’ from the pandemic. ‘Build Back Better’ was Biden’s 2020 campaign slogan.
He went on to claim Biden had used, adding: ‘I think he may have nicked it from us but I certainly nicked it from somewhere else – probably some UN disaster relief program.’
Biden could be seen laughing on the video call.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the chair of this year’s G7 summit, waves a welcome to his fellow leaders of the world’s richest nations as he hosts an online meeting
Joe Biden joined his first G7 meeting as president; he’s seen in the top row, in the middle
French President Emmanuel Macron attended the meeting from the Elysee Palace in Paris; he and Boris Johnson are urging their fellow G7 leaders to donate COVID vaccine to poorer nations
Both Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron are pushing for vaccine access for the world’s poorer countries, especially in Africa, for instance by donating more money to the UN’s COVAX program.
‘We must respond to this glaring inequality,’ Macron said at a meeting with African leaders on Wednesday.
On Thursday, White House officials said Biden would pledge $4 billion in US aid to the COVAX program, which aims to ensure a fair supply of coronavirus vaccines around the world.
Biden will speak at a virtual G7 summit on Friday, addressing the leaders of the world’s richest countries, and then make remarks to the annual Munich Security Conference. Both events are virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In excerpts of his remarks to the Munich conference released by the White House on Friday, Biden stresses the importance of democracy in a time of upheaval.
‘Historians will examine and write about this moment. It’s an inflection point. And I believe with every ounce of my being that democracy must prevail,’ he will say.
‘We must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people. That is our galvanizing mission. Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it. Strengthen it. Renew it. We have to prove that our model isn’t a relic of our history. It’s the single best way to realize the promise of our future. And if we work together with our democratic partners, with strength and confidence, I know that we will meet every challenge and outpace every challenger,’ he will note.
In his debut as president on the world stage, Biden will claim the ‘America First’ era is over, warn of attacks on democracy by Russia and address a range of concerns about China.
The president will make clear the United States will re-engage on the world stage after four years of Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ isolationist strategy but he will not spend his time repudiating his predecessor.
Biden intends to ‘declare that America is back and the transatlantic alliance is back,’ a senior administration official told reporters on a call previewing Biden’s remarks on Thursday night.
‘The focus of his speech tomorrow is not Donald Trump and what happened over the last four years,’ the official said.
Biden will focus his remarks on three areas: the coronavirus pandemic, its worldwide economic fallout, and the climate crisis.
President Joe Biden will make his debut on the world stage on Friday in a pair of speeches to the G7 and the annual Munich Security Conference
But his virtual visit to Europe will include several boons: a $4 billion pledge of support for global coronavirus vaccination efforts, the re-entry of the United States into the Paris climate accord, and his $1.9 trillion COVID relief measure that could boost both the U.S. and global economies.
His message will stress the importance of democracy, a move that comes after the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capital by pro-Trump supporters rattled the world stage.
‘He will make a strong, confident case that democracy is the best model for meeting the challenges of our time,’ the official said. ‘Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We need to fight for it.’
That will include raising concerns about Russian efforts to undermine democracy in the United States and elsewhere.
The president will ask allies to help the U.S. ‘push back aggressively’ against Russian efforts, the official said.
Meanwhile, Biden has continued one Trump policy – mistrust of China.
Beijing is not part of the G7 – which is composed of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – but Biden will raise concerns about China’s ‘economically abusive’ practices that threaten global competition.
‘He will make clear in the speech that he’s not looking for confrontation, he’s not looking for a new Cold War, but he’s expecting stiff competition and he welcomes it,’ the official said.
In his remarks, President Biden will raise concerns about Russian efforts to undermine democracy in the United States and elsewhere – above Russian President Vladimir Putin
Biden also will raise concerns about China’s ‘economically abusive’ practices that threaten global competition – above Chinese President Xi Jinping
In his remarks, he also will promote ‘a robust agenda of measures to address the global climate crisis. The United States officially re-enters the Paris Climate Accord on Friday after Trump removed the country from the agreement.
Johnson is scheduled to host an in-person gathering of the leaders in Cornwall in June. Biden plans to attend should the coronavirus pandemic allow it.
Britain also will host the UN’s next climate summit, COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, in November. Johnson has invited Biden to attend.