President Joe Biden said Friday that the U.S. and its international partners must hold China to account for its economic practices.
“We have to push back against the Chinese government’s abuses and coercion that undercut the foundations of the international economic system,” Biden said in a speech to the Munich Security Conference, delivered virtually from the White House.
“Everyone must play by the same rules,” he said at the annual international policy gathering.
Biden’s appearance, his debut before an international audience since becoming president, came as his administration seeks to maintain a tough stance on China while moving away from former President Donald Trump’s pugilistic relationship with Beijing.
The Trump administration sought to reshape the U.S.-China trade relationship, placing a key focus on boosting Beijing’s purchase of U.S. goods while addressing issues including intellectual property protections and forced technology transfers.
After striking the first “phase” of a deal, Trump in 2020 canceled an additional round of trade talks with China, on which he has placed full blame for the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump’s “America First” political ethos also alienated some European leaders who had long been allied with the United States. Biden has made clear he intends to warm relations with America’s international partners.
“I know the past few years have strained and tested our trans-Atlantic relationship. But the United States is determined to reengage with Europe,” Biden said at the start of his speech Friday.
Before delivering his remarks, Biden met with the leaders of the G7, the group of nations that includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S., to discuss a global response to the Covid pandemic.
In a joint statement following that meeting, the G7 vowed to “work together and with others to make 2021 a turning point for multilateralism.”
The G7’s statement also announced that member nations would commit $7.5 billion in funding for COVAX, an international initiative that aims to increase access to Covid vaccines. The White House on Thursday said that the U.S. would pledge $4 billion through 2022 toward global vaccination efforts.
The G7 meeting touched on China as well, according to the statement. “With the aim of supporting a fair and mutually beneficial global economic system for all people, we will engage with others, especially G20 countries including large economies such as China,” it said.
Biden went further in his speech.
“U.S. and European companies are required to publicly disclose corporate governance structures … and abide by rules to deter corruption and monopolistic practices. Chinese companies should be held to the same standard,” the president said.
“We must stand up for the democratic values that make it possible to accomplish any of this, pushing back against those who would monopolize and normalize repression,” Biden said.
The Chinese embassy in the U.S. did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Biden’s speech.
The president noted that “this is also how we’re going to be able to meet the threat from Russia,” which wants to “weaken the European project and our NATO alliance.”
“The challenges with Russia may be different than the ones with China, but they are just as real,” Biden said.
“It is not about pitting East against West. It’s not about, we want a conflict. We want a future where all nations are able to freely determine their own path without a threat of violence or coercion,” Biden said. “We cannot and must not return to the reflexive opposition and rigid blocs of the Cold War.”
Read the full joint statement from the G7:
“We, the leaders of the Group of Seven, met today and resolved to work together to beat COVID-19 and build back better. Drawing on our strengths and values as democratic, open economies and societies, we will work together and with others to make 2021 a turning point for multilateralism and to shape a recovery that…