Joint Base Andrews, UNITED STATES – President Joe Biden traveled to the G20 summit in India on Thursday, hoping to take advantage of the absence of Chinese and Russian leaders to strengthen American influence in the divided bloc.
Biden will try to show that on big transnational issues, Washington is a better partner than Beijing or Moscow – and that the G20 remains a key forum.
But deep divisions over Russia’s war in Ukraine and how to help emerging countries fight climate change are expected to hamper agreements during the two-day meeting in New Delhi.
Biden will also travel to Vietnam on Sunday where he is expected to improve relations with the former enemy, aiming to push back an increasingly assertive China.
Air Force One left Joint Base Andrews near Washington and is expected to arrive in India on Friday.
“As the President heads to the G20, he is committed to working with emerging market partners to achieve great things together,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said during a press briefing preceding the summit.
“This is what we think the world will see in New Delhi this weekend.”
The 80-year-old president tested negative for Covid shortly before his departure, the White House announced, clearing him to travel after a scare when his wife contracted a mild case on Monday.
Jill Biden also tested negative on Thursday.
China’s Xi Jinping will miss the G20 meeting at a time of heightened trade and geopolitical tensions with the United States and India, with whom it shares a long and contentious border.
Biden said last week he was “disappointed” that Xi was not attending the G20, but the Chinese leader’s no-show gives the US president a golden opportunity to increase Washington’s influence over his rival.
White House officials said Biden would place particular emphasis on a plan to increase the lending power of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to emerging countries by some $200 billion as a better alternative to the initiative. Beijing’s “coercive” Belt and Road Initiative.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is not even considering delivering a video speech to the G20, the Kremlin said on Thursday, amid tense relations between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.
But the absence of Xi and Putin underscores divisions within the G20 and could hamper Biden’s bid to maintain the bloc as the main forum for global economic cooperation.
The White House’s Sullivan said the United States wanted to show that the G20 can deliver on its promises at a time when the BRICS club of emerging economies – which includes India but has largely been championed by China and the Russia – is expanding.
Biden will also encourage India and its leader Narendra Modi to act as a counterweight to China, even if their objectives are sometimes contradictory, particularly on Ukraine.
Sullivan said Tuesday that China could choose to “play the role of spoiler” but that Modi and other leaders would “encourage them to come in a constructive way.”
Biden is traveling directly from the G20 to Hanoi where he will meet with the leader of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong.
The two countries are expected to sign a major improvement in relations between the two countries, which have overcome the painful legacy of the Vietnam War to become closer.
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