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Biden meets with G7 to talk about Ukraine, inflation, food insecurity, climate change

SUSAN DAVIS, HOST:

President Biden is on his way to Europe, where he's going to meet with other leaders of the world's wealthiest democracies at a G-7 summit in Germany. Joining us now is NPR's Berlin correspondent Rob Schmitz to talk about what's on that agenda. Good morning, Rob.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Hey, Sue.

DAVIS: So a lot to talk about these days - war in Ukraine, global inflation, food insecurity, climate change. So what's taking priority this time?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, many of these global problems are connected, and the Group of Seven will try to tackle all of them. But of course, Russia's war in Ukraine will likely be a priority at this summit. We're entering the fifth month of the war. Ukraine was just formally announced as a candidate member for the European Union. And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is scheduled to speak to leaders via video link this weekend as well.

DAVIS: In addition to the G-7 leaders, there's going to be representatives from several countries of the developing world there.

SCHMITZ: Right.

DAVIS: What's the idea behind including them?

SCHMITZ: Well, Germany, the host country, has invited leaders from India, Argentina, Indonesia, Senegal and South Africa to sit in on some of these sessions. Now, these are all countries where both climate change and food insecurity are big concerns, and this summit offers a forum so that they can work on solutions with the world's richest countries.

I spoke to the German Marshall Fund's Sudha David-Wilp about their inclusion, and she says the presence of these countries at this event is also strategic from a geopolitical perspective.

SUDHA DAVID-WILP: So these are all of concrete interest to countries like India and South Africa. But at the same time, on a higher level, the war also represents the values behind democracy - the right to have sovereignty, territorial integrity, and also the freedom to exist. Ukraine is on the front line of democracy, and all these countries also have a stake in that fight.

SCHMITZ: And Sue, she told me that some of these countries may see Russia's war in Ukraine as simply a regional conflict, but that this summit gives the G-7 countries an opportunity to show them that the war has global consequences that will impact them, too.

DAVIS: Another country that continues to dominate the global conversation - China. How will G-7 leaders talk about them this time around?

SCHMITZ: Well, Biden administration officials say that China and how to manage the world's relationship with Beijing will be a big part of this summit. I mentioned earlier countries from the developing world who will be at the summit, and China's Belt and Road Initiative that aims to help developing countries build infrastructure now has competition from the Biden administration, which will lead what it calls a global infrastructure partnership. We don't have many details yet, but these two competing infrastructure programs show how both China and the U.S. are also competing for influence across the world, and this will be at the heart of talks at the G-7 summit as well.

The European Union is especially frustrated with China because Beijing has thus far refused to condemn the government of Vladimir Putin for Russia's war in Ukraine. China's stance has given Europe pause on building closer relations with Beijing, and the war, of course, has united the U.S.'s geopolitical goals with the EU more than ever. So you've got a G-7 summit followed by a NATO summit. This unified stance among the U.S. and its allies appears to be growing stronger each day.

DAVIS: That's NPR's Berlin correspondent Rob Schmitz. Thank you so much, Rob.

SCHMITZ: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.