Biden’s First Trip Overseas – Part One
Biden’s trip is scheduled to take in talks with Western leaders, the G-7 meeting, a visit to NATO headquarters, and a meeting with Russian President Putin. This analysis covers the first part of the trip and will be continued in next week’s report.
After being in the White House for nearly half a year, Biden is making his first trip overseas. It started with the G-7 meeting of major Western leaders in Britain, preceded by a meeting with his host, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The Biden Administration made the trip’s theme: “America positively engaged with its European allies after four years of Trump.” Polls came out saying Biden was more popular with foreigners than Trump (although they downplayed the fact that German Chancellor Markel) is seen as a better leader than Biden.
Biden reaffirming the “Special Relationship” with Great Britain
The first meeting with Johnson – and the leader of America’s closest ally started with some diplomatic bumps that are usually avoided prior to such meetings. Biden and his State Department issued a diplomatic demarche (something usually reserved for unfriendly governments) over the lack of hard trade borders between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain.
The issue is a domestic one for Britain and has been dubbed the “Sausage War.” The EU, still upset with London’s Brexit, now wants to stop the movement of chilled meats (sausage and bacon) from the island of Britain to Northern Ireland.
Why Biden chose to involve the US in this issue is a mystery. The EU intransigence on the issue could also cause an outbreak of hostilities in Northern Ireland again.
Bilateral relations were not helped when Biden previously called Johnson a “Physical and Emotional Clone” of President Trump and had criticized the British decision to leave the EU.
Despite these problems overhanging the meeting of the two leaders, the meeting went off without a hitch. British foreign secretary Raab told reporters that the two did not “linger” on the Sausage War issue.
“The prime minister wanted to raise it and be very clear on our position,” Raab said.
The press conference afterwards was very positive.
To give a positive spin to the meeting, Biden and Johnson held a ceremonial signing of the Atlantic Charter, which was first signed by Churchill and Roosevelt during WWII. It addressed human rights and the right of self-determination.
The one signed by Biden and Johnson was not as historic. Rather than focusing on human rights, it talked about climate change and technology.
After the ceremonial signing of the Atlantic Charter, the two leaders held their private talks.
One issue that was sure to come up was the growing tensions with China. While the US has strengthened its ties with Taiwan and challenged Chinese control over the South China Sea, Britain has seen China break the treaty with the UK that turned the colony of Hong Kong over to the Chinese. The treaty guaranteed Hong Kong’s special status and human rights for a period of 50 years. The Chinese have broken the treaty with the crack down on (what has been considered by US and its allies) as human rights in Hong Kong in the past few years.
One issue for discussion is the Western naval presence off the Chinese coast during the next few months. The only US supercarrier in the Western Pacific is the USS Ronald Reagan. However, it is moving to the Indian Ocean to cover the planned withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. The US wants the Reagan on station if the Taliban or other radical groups tries to attack the US forces while they are leaving.
Although the US has an amphibious assault ship (USS America, LHA-6) in the Western Pacific, it can only carry 6 F-35 fighter aircraft. It is designed for amphibious missions like attacks on the artificial islands China has built in the South China Sea. It does not have the air capability for countering a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan (however, it might be ideal for countering ground attacks on US troops in Afghanistan).
During this Afghanistan mission, the US is expecting the new Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and her two squadrons of F-35 fighters to provide needed air support to the American, Japanese, and Australian naval forces around China.
This is also a subject sure to come up in private talks at the NATO meeting next week. Should France’s nuclear aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, move towards China or should it remain in the European theater as tensions with Russia remain high?
G-7 Talks Begin
Friday was the opening of the G-7 talks in Cornwall, England. The G-7 nations include Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States.
However, the reality is that the G-7 nations are not as important as they once were. These top 7 Western nations once controlled much of the world’s economy. However, as other nations outside of the G-7 nations have grown economically (China being a prime example), their economic clout has declined considerably.
That is one reason why South Korea, South Africa, Australia, and India have been invited to attend the G-7 meeting this year.
And, unlike the unity shown during the Cold War, national differences have created major wedges between the nations. France and Germany are advocates of the European Union, which Britain left, and Italy threatens to leave. Japan, the US, and Britain are concerned about Chinese hegemony while Germany pushed the EU-China Investment Agreement.
These differences and loss of economic importance did not stop the G-7 nations. One example is the idea of having a global tax of 15% on companies – an idea that will not go anywhere. The taxes will not be implemented by nations that have lower corporate taxes since it destroys their competitiveness. There is also the fact that the taxes will have to be approved by the various legislative bodies of the respective nations.
Some see the global tax to tax more of Amazon’s profits.
It is also important to remember that the global tax has been under discussion for over a decade without any results. And, as proof that the idea of a global tax is not fully accepted, it will be a subject of discussion at the G-20 meeting in July.
There will also be many more issues discussed at the G-7 talks. China will be a target as the G-7 nations will push for an investigation into the Covid pandemic and the claims that it was created as a bioweapon in China. There will also be talks about claims of Chinese slave labor.
China passed a law during the G-7 meeting that penalizes countries that sanction China.
Russia will also be a subject as there will be a call for Russia to hold cyber criminals to account for ransomware attacks as well as other cybercrimes.
The G-7 nations are also expected to endorse the Iranian nuclear talks, even though there are still many obstacles to a final deal.
Covid issues will be discussed, including common standards for covid vaccine documents and trade restrictions on vaccine exports. There will also be a call on stricter public sector spending as the world recovers from the covid virus.
Now that the US has a president that believes in climate change, the G-7 nations will be making major announcements on global warming. There will be a commitment to shift to zero emission vehicles. There will also be vague talk about climate funding and financial assistance to poorer nations. They will also advocate initiatives like carbon markets to restrict carbon emissions.
And there will be talk about the “Sausage War” between the EU and Great Britain.
The world awaits the results with breathless anticipation.