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Politics Chat: Infrastructure Negotiations Continue, Biden Visits G-7 Leaders


As lawmakers continue to negotiate an infrastructure bill here in Washington, President Joe Biden is overseas on an agenda of diplomacy and multilateralism. He's met with G-7 leaders in the U.K. Next, he heads to Brussels to meet with NATO allies. After that, it is a high-stakes summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is following all of this. And just as importantly, it is her birthday.

Happy birthday, and good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Thank you. Good morning, Scott.

DETROW: We have just heard from President Biden. He's speaking as the G-7 wraps up. What is he saying the G-7 agreed to?

LIASSON: The G-7 agreed to several things that Biden wanted them to agree to. They agreed to continue distributing vaccines to low-income countries, preparing for the next pandemic, a corporate global minimum tax of 15%. But they also agreed on a $40 trillion global infrastructure plan that actually is called Build Back Better World. So Biden is taking his slogan internationally, and that would pull together all the development finance tools for infrastructure investments in low- and middle-income countries. They also agreed to permanently eliminate the use of public financing to support coal projects. But the big takeaway that Biden wants people to know is that he was very pleased with the summit and that the Europeans seemed grateful and enthusiastic that America was back at the table and fully engaged.

DETROW: President Biden has focused so much on countering China. He went into the summit wanting to try to get the rest of the G-7 on the same page. A lot of other leaders are not necessarily there. What is he saying about any sort of agreements that came out of this?

LIASSON: Yeah, well, there's no doubt that some of the European countries want to do business with China. They don't want to be as tough on China as Biden does. But he did get the G-7 in its communique to agree to a statement against forced labor - that's directly aimed at China. And also, this global infrastructure plan is an alternative, a competitor - excuse me - with the Belt and Road Initiative that China has been pushing. So it's going to be a green version of the Belt and Road. It's a climate-focused infrastructure plan. And the White House sees it as part of Biden's strategic competition with China. So he got a couple wins there.

DETROW: President Biden repeatedly kept saying, America is back. I'm a diplomatic partner. I am here. I want to be here with allies. That certainly got him a lot of photo-ops that were a lot friendlier than what President Trump got at these meetings. Did it get him any domestic political winds?

LIASSON: Well, that is unclear. Usually, foreign policy is not the top issue for American voters. They want jobs. Excuse me - but to the extent that people, especially independent voters, voted for Biden because they wanted a return to normalcy after a norm-breaking four years of Trump, I think that he showed them that that's what he was doing in Europe. And the contrast with Trump was extreme. You know, Biden has said that the challenge of our era is that democracies have to prove they can deliver for their people better than autocracies because autocracy and authoritarianism is on the march all around the world. And he was over there in Europe saying that the U.S. commitment to NATO is, quote, "rock solid." He said, our commitment to Article 5 is a sacred obligation. Article 5, of course, is the part of NATO that says an attack on one is an attack on all. And famously, Donald Trump at one point raised a question about whether the U.S. would abide by Article 5. He said that NATO was a ripoff. So Biden is really presenting a diametrically opposed message saying that, we need our allies. We can't face challenges like pandemics and cybercrime alone. The only way to meet global threats is by working together with our allies. So that's a big, big difference.

DETROW: And lastly, Mara, at the end of this trip, there's going to be a summit very different than the G-7 and NATO for President Biden. He's sitting down with Vladimir Putin in Geneva. It's certainly also going to be very different than the last time Putin and Trump sat down together in Helsinki in 2018.

LIASSON: Absolutely. No more bromance with Putin. And Biden made that clear. And on that, there is a consensus in the United States. Democrats and Republicans agree with Biden that Putin is a bad actor and that at the very least, he's turning a blind eye, if not supporting, Russian cybercriminals. So that's a big, big difference from the Trump years. And Biden is going to deliver a very tough message to Putin, according to the White House.

DETROW: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, always good to talk to you.

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

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.