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Updates From President Biden's Europe Trip

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Biden's in Cornwall, England, to meet with other leaders of the G-7 today. That's the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. On the agenda today is China and how to respond to its rising power. NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez is there in Cornwall and joins us. Good morning.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hey, Scott.

SIMON: What kind of response are the leaders planning?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, you know, they're talking about a new fund. It's going to be a counterpoint to what's known as the Belt and Road Initiative from China. Belt and Road is what China has used to help build big projects around the world. And officials from Latin America, for example, have told me that it's politically helpful to them. You know, this cash helps them build roads and create some jobs, and that really matters when it comes time for them to be up for reelection.

But the program has been criticized because the funding tends to come with conditions down the road and poor environmental and labor standards. White House officials told us that the G-7 wants to help fill a gap there. And the World Bank says there's about $40 billion of projects needed in the developing world through 2035, so there's a lot of need.

SIMON: President Biden has talked an awful lot about how he sees the huge strategic challenge of China. Are European leaders in agreement with him?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, this has been a point of divergence. There are concerns about China. But we've seen on issues like 5G mobile internet that the United Kingdom was willing to go its own way and, frankly, work with Chinese suppliers that the United States refused. I talked about this split with Andrea Kendall-Taylor. She advised the Biden transition team before he took office. She says there have been some shifts. For example, Lithuania pulled out of an infrastructure group with China, and the EU has issued sanctions on China.

ANDREA KENDALL-TAYLOR: So all of those things signal how the ground is really moving in Europe, that there is more consensus about the threat of the challenge that China poses.

SIMON: Franco, what tangible signs are you looking for to see whether President Biden can persuade his U.S. allies to form a more united front?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, the White House says that Biden tomorrow is going to push G-7 leaders to take a tougher stand against China's use of forced labor. And as you've talked about on this show, there are people, the Uyghur ethnic minority, who are forced to produce cotton and work in factories that make products that end up in big brands bought in G-7 nations. So we'll see whether this becomes part of the joint statement that leaders agree to during the summit. And we'll see that statement sometime tomorrow.

SIMON: And after the wrap-up, a big meeting in Geneva, right?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. The big event that everyone's watching for next week is the meeting in Geneva with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But before that, he's going to go to Brussels, and he wants to talk about China there, too, with NATO and European leaders. Biden has really been trying to cast this trip as a chance for democracies, like the U.S. and in Europe, to show that they're a better model than autocracies and Russia and China. And I expect he'll talk more about that in a press conference he's expected to have here.

SIMON: Franco Ordoñez traveling with the president in Cornwall. Thanks so much.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.