Indo-Pacific : News & Discussion

RISING SUN

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Dec 3, 2017
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EU needs good diplomats in Indo-Pacific, not people in uniforms​

By Shada Islam
Europe's planned strategy for a stronger "strategic focus, presence and actions" in the Indo-Pacific sparks breathless commentary. No holds are barred as experts, young and old, qualified and not-so-qualified, weigh in with their views.
It is all good, worthy stuff.
  • The EU's Indo-Pacific future looks bright provided three strategic pitfalls are avoided

Only the curmudgeonly would deny the EU its moment of glory and the chance to sharpen its profile in the treacherously-crowded waters of the Indo-Pacific.

Europe's recognition of Asia's increasing clout and Asian countries' re-assessment of the EU as more than a political pygmy are to be encouraged.

The EU's summit with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi over the weekend in Porto is vivid proof of ongoing geopolitical rebranding of nations. It also sends a powerful message that there is more to EU-Asia relations than a fixation with China.
Still, keeping track of Beijing's love-hate - 'can't live with you, can't live without you' - relationship with Europe remains front and centre of EU preoccupations.

It has also spawned a lucrative industry of sharp-eyed shock and awe commentary from an ever-growing pool of China-watchers.
The thrills are unstoppable.

How different from years ago when, as the Brussels-based Europe correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review, a weekly news magazine in Hong Kong, I found hunting for stories on EU-Asia relations as painful as pulling teeth.

EU policymakers had little time to spare for a continent which was viewed as too big, too far away, and too poor.
Some like Javier Solana, Chris Patten and Pascal Lamy were ahead of the pack in recognising Asia's ascending significance.
But others tended to be paternalistic and condescending.

In Hong Kong, my editors - British, American, Indian and Australian - were sceptical about Europe's relevance. Among EU hacks in Brussels, interest in Asia was zero.

Stubborn, determined and curious, I wrote for the Review until 2004 (when it sadly closed its doors), studiously tracking the rollercoaster engagement between Europe and Asia.

Driven by business, clouded by politics and struggling to emerge from colonialism's dark shadow, the story remains fascinating.
Often, history repeats itself. Human rights, now focused on the Uighurs in China has always been a thorn in the flesh in EU-Asia ties.
Before the current Western obsession with China, there was fear over an imminent Japanese global economic takeover.

Just as Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, lectures the EU today on towing the American line on China, Richard Holbrooke, the US special Af-Pak envoy under president Bill Clinton, was a frequent visitor to EU headquarters urging Europe to up its presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Selective attention​

Western focus on Asia was as selective as it is today, with few paying attention to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) or recognising Indonesia's importance as the world's most populous Muslim majority country.

Fast forward to 2021 and Europe-Asia relations are on a roll, with no doubting Thomas in sight.

Once primarily dominated by business, the EU-Asia conversation is becoming more multi-faceted, covering climate change, connectivity, health and security.

The EU's Indo-Pacific future looks bright provided three strategic pitfalls are avoided.

First, Europe must work to lower US-China geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific, not add to them.

It can do so by encouraging a broader, more inclusive, more nuanced and less hard-security conversation in the region.
EU policymakers are right to resist pressure to emulate the hard security stance and implicit anti-China bias of Quad members: US, Japan, Australia and India.

As Asian experts including Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani underline, competition in Asia is not military but economic in nature.
The Indo-Pacific's real strategic game centres on economic integration.

This is happening through the ASEAN-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement signed by 15 Asia-Pacific nations in November 2020 and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a trade pact between 11 countries, that Japan revived after the US left the original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Second, while China-US rivalry grabs the headlines, it would be a mistake to simplify or neglect the region's other complex realities.
Myanmar is one unfortunate illustration of frail governance in the region. EU hopes of promoting its values in the region also face a challenge in other countries where nationalism and populism are rising while democratic standards slide.

Third, the temptation to over-romanticise its friends and over-vilify its competitors must be resisted. Building a special relationship with ASEAN or India does not mean ignoring their fragilities.

And while America's framing of China as an "existential threat" is an exaggeration, the EU should also hold strong against an over-reliance on China for trade and investments.

The EU is no stranger to the Indo-Pacific, having built up a network of trade agreements and "partnership" pacts across the region over years.
Competition for Asian hearts and minds will get tougher as the Biden Administration and post-Brexit Britain step up their Indo-Pacific game.
Europe can offer a "third way" of connecting and engaging with Asia. That will require skilled and experienced diplomats, not men and women in uniform.
 

RISING SUN

Senior member
Dec 3, 2017
8,435
4,327

U.S.-ROK Leaders’ Joint Statement​

Over seventy years ago, the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea was forged on the battlefield, as we stood shoulder-to-shoulder in war. Bonded in common sacrifice, our partnership has helped to keep the peace in the decades since, allowing both of our countries and our peoples to thrive. The linchpin for stability and prosperity, our alliance has continued to evolve as the world around us has changed. Now, as the regional security environment in the Indo-Pacific grows more complex, and existential issues, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the threat of climate change, reshape the globe, we recommit ourselves to an ironclad alliance.


The United States and the Republic of Korea share a vision for a region governed by democratic norms, human rights, and the rule of law at home and abroad. We seek a partnership that continues to provide peace and prosperity for our peoples, while serving as a linchpin for the regional and global order. Above all, we are united in our determination to reinvigorate and modernize our ties for a new era. President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. is honored to welcome President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea to Washington to begin a new chapter in our partnership.

The Alliance: Opening a New Chapter


President Biden and President Moon reaffirm their mutual commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and their combined defense posture under the ROK-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty, and President Biden affirms the U.S. commitment to provide extended deterrence using its full range of capabilities. We commit to strengthening the alliance deterrence posture, share the importance of maintaining joint military readiness, and reiterate our firm commitment to a conditions-based transition of wartime operational control. We also agree to deepen cooperation in other domains, including cyber and space, to ensure an effective joint response against emerging threats. We welcome the signing of a multi-year Special Measures Agreement, which enhances our combined defense posture and represents our dedication to the alliance.


The two sides reaffirm that close coordination on all matters related to global nonproliferation and safe, secure, and safeguarded uses of nuclear technology remain key characteristics of the alliance, and the United States recognizes the ROK’s global role in promoting nonproliferation efforts. Following consultations with the United States, the ROK announces the termination of its Revised Missile Guidelines, and the Presidents acknowledged the decision.


President Biden and President Moon emphasize their shared commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and their intent to address the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK’s) nuclear and ballistic missile programs. We call for the full implementation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions by the international community, including the DPRK. President Moon welcomes the conclusion of the United States’ DPRK policy review, which takes a calibrated and practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy with the DPRK to make tangible progress that increases the security of the United States and the Republic of Korea. We also reaffirm our common belief that diplomacy and dialogue, based on previous inter-Korean and U.S.-DPRK commitments such as the 2018 Panmunjom Declaration and Singapore Joint Statement, are essential to achieve the complete denuclearization and establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. President Biden also expresses his support for inter-Korean dialogue, engagement, and cooperation. We agree to work together to improve the human rights situation in the DPRK and commit to continue facilitating the provision of humanitarian aid to the neediest North Koreans. We also share our willingness to help facilitate the reunion of separated families of the two Koreas. We also agree to coordinate our approaches to the DPRK in lockstep. We underscore the fundamental importance of U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral cooperation for addressing the DPRK, protecting our shared security and prosperity, upholding common values, and bolstering the rules-based order.


The significance of the U.S.-ROK relationship extends far beyond the Korean Peninsula: it is grounded in our shared values and anchors our respective approaches to the Indo-Pacific region. We agree we will work to align the ROK’s New Southern Policy and the United States’ vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific and that our countries will cooperate to create a safe, prosperous, and dynamic region. The United States and the ROK reaffirm support for ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN-led regional architecture. We agree to expand regional coordination on law enforcement, cybersecurity, public health and promoting a green recovery. We agree to work closely together to promote greater connectivity and foster digital innovation within ASEAN, while developing deeper people-to-people ties among Americans, Koreans, and the people of Southeast Asia. We will also consider opportunities for joint efforts to promote sustainable development, energy security, and responsible water management in the Mekong sub-region. The United States and the ROK also reaffirm support for enhanced cooperation with Pacific Island Countries and acknowledge the importance of open, transparent, and inclusive regional multilateralism including the Quad.


The United States and the Republic of Korea oppose all activities that undermine, destabilize, or threaten the rules-based international order and commit to maintaining an inclusive, free, and open Indo-Pacific. We pledge to maintain peace and stability, lawful unimpeded commerce, and respect for international law, including freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea and beyond. President Biden and President Moon emphasize the importance of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. As democracies that value pluralism and individual liberty, we share our intent to promote human rights and rule of law issues, both at home and abroad.


We resolutely condemn violence by the Myanmar military and police against civilians, and commit to continuing to press for the immediate cessation of violence, the release of those who are detained, and a swift return to democracy. We call on all nations to join us in providing safe haven to Burmese nationals and in prohibiting arms sales to Myanmar.

The Way Forward: Comprehensive Partnership for a Better Future


President Biden and President Moon acknowledge that contemporary threats and challenges require us to deepen our partnership in new areas. We commit to forging new ties on climate, global health, emerging technologies, including 5G and 6G technology and semi-conductors, supply chain resilience, migration and development, and in our people-to-people relationship.

President Moon welcomes U.S. leadership to enhance global climate ambitions through its hosting of the Leaders’ Summit on Climate on April 22, 2021. President Biden looks forward to the Republic of Korea’s contributions to achieve inclusive, international green recovery and net zero greenhouse gas emissions by hosting the P4G Seoul Summit on May 30-31. The United States has submitted an ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution, and welcomes the Republic of Korea’s plan to release early in October its provisional enhanced 2030 target, and by COP 26 its final enhanced 2030 target, aligned with efforts to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius and with the global goal to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050. We will cooperate to enhance our efforts to achieve our 2030 targets and 2050 goals, including long-term strategies, set examples among the world leaders in reducing carbon emissions, conserve and enhance natural carbon sinks such as oceans and forests, and expand much-needed collaboration on technology and innovation to help achieve our long-term goals.


Building on President Moon’s declaration to end public financing for new overseas coal fired power plants and President Biden’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis, the Republic of Korea and United States will work together at the OECD and in other international venues to end all forms of new public financing for unabated overseas coal-fired power plants.


The Republic of Korea and the United States will align official international financing with the global achievement of net zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050 and deep emission reductions in the 2020s. The Republic of Korea looks forward to joining with the United States and other countries in contributing climate finance towards the new post-2025 mobilization goal under the Paris Agreement.


The United States and the Republic of Korea have been critical allies in the COVID-19 pandemic and on longstanding global health challenges, and President Biden expresses his gratitude for the ROK’s donation of critical medical supplies to the United States at its time of dire need. Against this backdrop, we agree to establish a comprehensive KORUS Global Vaccine Partnership to strengthen joint response capabilities for infectious disease through international vaccine cooperation, including focus areas on global expansion of production and related materials, as well as scientific and technological cooperation. Drawing on each of our strengths, Korea and the United States will work collaboratively to expand manufacturing of vaccines that have been demonstrated safe and effective, as assessed by Stringent Regulatory Authorities and/or the World Health Organization, for global benefit. The United States and Korea will partner to meet increasing demand for safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in a timely manner. Based on the partnership, we will actively cooperate on greatly scaling up global COVID-19 vaccine supply, including through COVAX and in coordination with CEPI, to countries around the world toward ending the pandemic in the nearest future and preparing for the next biological threat. To this end, we will launch a senior-level experts group, the KORUS Global Vaccine Partnership Experts Group, to implement the partnership, comprised of scientists, experts and officials from our governments. Both countries will actively work together to ensure the success of COVAX, and the ROK commends the United States on its bold $4 billion contribution this year. To this end, and in recognition that we are both leaders in this fight, the ROK will increase its pledge to COVAX AMC substantially this year.


We agree to work together to strengthen and reform the World Health Organization by strengthening its ability to prevent pandemics through early and effective prevention, detection, and response to potential health emergencies, and by increasing its transparency and ensuring its independence. We will also support a transparent and independent evaluation and analysis of the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak and for investigating outbreaks of unknown origin in the future. We resolve to take decisive action to help the Indo-Pacific build better regional pandemic preparedness, and will work together and multilaterally to build the capacity of all countries to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. To move towards this goal, the ROK commits to increase its engagement in the Global Health Security Agenda Steering Group and Action Package Working Groups, and the ROK pledges a new $200M commitment for 2021-2025 period to support the GHSA target and help partner countries fill their gaps. The United States and the ROK will also work together with likeminded countries to create a new sustainable, catalytic health security financing mechanism.


The United States and the ROK are among each other’s largest trading and investment partners, and these strong economic ties, particularly the U.S.- Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), are a bedrock. The Presidents agreed to cooperate closely on the reform of the WTO and expressed their shared commitment to oppose unfair trade practices.


With the technological landscape rapidly changing, we agree to strengthen our partnership on critical and emerging technologies to promote our shared security and prosperity. We agree on the importance of careful screening of foreign investments and cooperation on export controls on critical technologies. Recognizing the importance of telecommunications security and vendor diversity, President Biden and President Moon commit to work together to develop open, transparent, and efficient 5G and 6G network architectures using Open-RAN technology. To this end, we agree to cooperate to increase resiliency in our supply chains, including in priority sectors such as semiconductors, eco-friendly EV batteries, strategic and critical materials, and pharmaceuticals. We also agree to work together to increase the global supply of legacy chips for automobiles, and to support leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing in both countries through the promotion of increased mutual investments as well as research and development cooperation. President Biden and President Moon commit to work together to develop a future-oriented partnership by leading innovation in the areas of clean energy, such as next generation batteries, hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage, and in the emerging technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI), 5G, next generation communications network (6G), open-RAN technology, quantum technology, and bio-technology.


President Biden and President Moon also commit to strengthening their partnership in civil space exploration, science, and aeronautics research and will cooperate towards the ROK signing the Artemis Accords. Moreover, we commit to develop cooperation in overseas nuclear markets, including joint participation in nuclear power plant projects, while ensuring the highest standards of international nuclear safety, security, and nonproliferation are maintained.


President Biden and President Moon welcome the chance to strengthen development ties between the United States and the ROK. We are pleased to expand our partnership to facilitate closer collaboration between the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Korea International Cooperation Agency. We also recognize the importance of addressing the root causes of migration from Central America’s Northern Triangle countries to the United States. To this end, the ROK pledges to increase its financial commitment to development cooperation in the Northern Triangle countries to $220 million for the 2021-2024 period. The United States also welcomes the ROK’s initiatives to increase cooperation with the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region, including digital and green cooperation.

The enduring friendship between the United States and the Republic of Korea is fed by our vibrant people-to-people ties. Over 1.7 million Korean students have enrolled in United States educational institutions since 1955. More than two million ROK citizens visit, work, or live in the United States, and over 200,000 U.S. citizens reside in the ROK. More than 10,000 U.S. and ROK citizens have participated in sponsored exchange programs, including ROK political leaders. We take great pride in celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first Korean and American Fulbright grantees to visit each other’s countries, which demonstrates the depth and strength of the longstanding ties between the people of the United States and the ROK. Our extensive exchange programs promote common purpose between our countries; we agree to increase two-way exchanges of young environmental leaders to strengthen our ability to cooperate in this critical area. Moving forward, we place particular emphasis on supporting greater interaction between experts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and empowering women and girls in these fields, to build a solid foundation for secure and sustainable innovation and economic resilience in both countries.


President Biden and President Moon also agree to redouble their commitment to democratic values, and the promotion of human rights at home and abroad. The strength of our democracies depends on women’s full participation in them. Together we will strive to end the abuse of women and girls, including domestic violence and cyber-exploitation, and to exchange best practices to close the gender wage gap–a challenge both our countries share. We agree to expand cooperation to combat corruption, and ensure the freedoms of expression and religion and belief. Finally, we join voices in condemning violence against the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, and pledge to work together to ensure that all Americans, including Korean-Americans, are treated with dignity and respect.


At a time of considerable international hardship and rapid global change, President Biden and President Moon are cognizant of the hurdles facing the United States, the ROK, and the world. We recognize that, with our cooperation, the U.S.-ROK alliance will play an increasingly global role, allowing us to rise to these defining challenges. For over seven decades, and thanks to its reciprocity and dynamism, our alliance has been a source of steadfast national strength; we look forward to working closely together to ensure it remains one for decades to come. President Moon expresses his gratitude to President Biden for the warm hospitality and extends an invitation for President Biden to visit the ROK.
 

RISING SUN

Senior member
Dec 3, 2017
8,435
4,327

U.S. says to work with allies to help Pacific islands amid China rivalry​

The U.S. policy chief for the Indo-Pacific said on Tuesday the United States aims to work with Japan, New Zealand, Australia and others to assist island nations in the Pacific, a region of increasing strategic competition with China.

Five Pacific island nations announced in February they would start withdrawing from the Pacific Island Forum, the region's main political grouping after a fractious leadership vote. {nL4N2KF07E]

White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said the United States wanted to work with others to reconvene the forum, after what he termed a "schism," to enable future bilateral and institutional engagement.

"These are islands which we have enormous historical moral and strategic interests in, and then sometimes we forget that," Campbell told an online event hosted by the Center for a New American Security think thank.


"And increasingly, again this is an arena of competition both in terms of values, their role at the United Nations, their health challenges, climate change their potential role militarily, healthy fishing stocks, just down the list.

"So one of the things that we are looking to do over the course of the next little while, working closely with allies like Australia, New Zealand, Japan and others, is to convene with Pacific island nations to talk about arenas of common purpose," he said.

Campbell said the aim would be to make progress in areas such as fisheries and coastguard activity and in delivery of support and assistance, including vaccines.

He said the region faced enormous challenges dealing with poverty, disease, and climate change and helping to meet those was difficult given their small disparate populations.


"But for the United States, again this is another area where we must step up our game."

The sparsely populated South Pacific island countries have in recent years become battlegrounds for influence between China and the United States and its allies.

Most of the island nation governments have been facing severe economic headwinds due to their heavy reliance on international tourism, an industry that abruptly shut last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
 

RISING SUN

Senior member
Dec 3, 2017
8,435
4,327

Why this G7 summit matters more than most​

t’s risky planning a trip to the British seaside at any time of year. But if the weather forecast is to be believed, Boris Johnson will get away with this gamble at the weekend’s meeting of the G7 at Carbis Bay in Cornwall.

Brexit’s critics were always going to seize on any evidence that Britain was being sidelined by the rest of the world after we left the EU. So it is fortunate for the government that the UK is the host of this year’s summit because it has placed this country at the centre of things.

This G7 is unusually consequential. It is the first time that these leaders have met in person for well over a year. This will give the meeting momentum; it would be hard to think of a worse format for diplomacy than group video calls. It is also the first summit of the new US administration. Every G7 summit when Donald Trump was in the White House was a damage-limitation exercise. But Joe Biden is an old-school believer in the western alliance and he will be keen to make these events work. Just look at the G7 deal on a global minimum level of corporation tax. This was achieved, in large part, because of America’s willingness to let other major economies tax its giant technology firms. Finally, this week’s summit has an immediate practical problem to solve: how can the developing world get enough vaccine doses? (In a sign of how Covid is still derailing diplomacy, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will only attend virtually because of the severity of the pandemic there.)

Britain’s international role can’t just be built on hosting summits, of course. Influential government figures argue that this week you can see the priorities of the UK’s new foreign policy emerging.

The first is the US relationship. As Biden was preparing to take office at the start of the year, many in the media speculated that Britain would be hampered in its bid to have a good relationship with Biden’s team because of its previous close ties to the Trump administration. This has turned out to be wrong. The US and UK’s foreign policy agendas are more closely aligned now than they were under Trump. Biden has also gone out of his way to soothe Britain’s diplomatic anxieties — Johnson was the first European leader that Biden spoke to as President.

The US and the UK both believe that the world is entering into a new era of competition between the democratic and autocratic worlds. This is a view that’s not yet shared by all of the G7. The UK has chosen to invite Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa to this year’s summit to launch a ‘Democratic 11’ of free countries. Biden wants this to pave the way to an international ‘Summit for Democracy’. The South Africans are a late addition to the summit after there were objections that the initial plan for a ‘D10’ lacked African representation. But the Asian tilt of this group is no accident. The UK sees this as crucial to any effort to contain China.

One potential irritant to the US-UK relationship is the Northern Ireland protocol. As the UK-EU standoff over the issue intensifies, Biden — who makes much of his Irish ancestry — is expected to raise the issue with Johnson this week in their bilateral discussions, though even the EU expects the intervention to be relatively mild. However, now that Johnson and David Frost, the cabinet minister responsible for handling the European Union, are explicit that the UK’s principal concern is the protection of the Good Friday Agreement, rather than the protocol itself, it is impossible to see how this issue won’t flare up again.


The second priority is collective security. If the UK had one great diplomatic success during the Trump years, it was in keeping Nato together. Given Trump’s ambiguity about the whole principle that an attack on one was an attack on all, it is an achievement in itself that the alliance has survived.

After the G7 is over, Biden will travel to Brussels for the Nato summit next week. The White House has confirmed that Russian authoritarianism will be discussed, demonstrating the alliance’s traditional utility. But Russia is, ultimately, a declining threat. As America’s focus shifts to the Pacific, Nato will need to become more relevant to the struggle to contain China. This will have to involve partnerships with groups such as the Quad — the emerging alliance of the US, Japan, India and Australia, which is working to counter China in the South China Sea.

The UK, with its connections to India and Australia and its role as the biggest European contributor to Nato, is well placed to argue for this shift. It will not be easy to move the alliance in this direction given, for instance, Germany’s publicly stated desire not to divide the world into opposing blocs. But attitudes to Beijing are changing fast. The EU signed an investment treaty with China at the end of last year — yet just three months later it joined a coordinated western effort to impose sanctions on Chinese officials over abuses in Xinjiang.

The final priority is free trade. The UK hopes to sign its first full post-Brexit trade deal later this month. The deal with Australia is part of the UK push to join the CPTPP, an 11-nation free trade agreement centred on the Pacific. If the UK joins this agreement, it will not only deepen this country’s links with an area of growing economic and strategic importance but it will also ensure that the UK is part of a group that would become crucial to the global trading system if tensions between the West and China were to make it impossible for the World Trade Organisation to function.

The idea that Brexit would lead to a catastrophic loss of Britain’s global influence has always been fanciful. After Brexit, the UK has — in proof of the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention — become a nimbler player on the world stage. Look at how it has repeatedly led the way in terms of sanctions on Belarus.

But the UK does need to stabilise its relationship with the EU. It will be that much harder for the free world to stand up to Russia and China if the UK is at loggerheads with its neighbours. It is going to require compromise and humility on both sides to fix the issues around the Northern Ireland protocol. It would be bad for the western alliance if Britain and the EU became the European equivalent of Japan and South Korea, two key US allies who fall out at the slightest provocation.t’s risky planning a trip to the British seaside at any time of year. But if the weather forecast is to be believed, Boris Johnson will get away with this gamble at the weekend’s meeting of the G7 at Carbis Bay in Cornwall.

Brexit’s critics were always going to seize on any evidence that Britain was being sidelined by the rest of the world after we left the EU. So it is fortunate for the government that the UK is the host of this year’s summit because it has placed this country at the centre of things.

This G7 is unusually consequential. It is the first time that these leaders have met in person for well over a year. This will give the meeting momentum; it would be hard to think of a worse format for diplomacy than group video calls. It is also the first summit of the new US administration. Every G7 summit when Donald Trump was in the White House was a damage-limitation exercise. But Joe Biden is an old-school believer in the western alliance and he will be keen to make these events work. Just look at the G7 deal on a global minimum level of corporation tax. This was achieved, in large part, because of America’s willingness to let other major economies tax its giant technology firms. Finally, this week’s summit has an immediate practical problem to solve: how can the developing world get enough vaccine doses? (In a sign of how Covid is still derailing diplomacy, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will only attend virtually because of the severity of the pandemic there.)
Britain’s international role can’t just be built on hosting summits, of course. Influential government figures argue that this week you can see the priorities of the UK’s new foreign policy emerging.
The first is the US relationship. As Biden was preparing to take office at the start of the year, many in the media speculated that Britain would be hampered in its bid to have a good relationship with Biden’s team because of its previous close ties to the Trump administration. This has turned out to be wrong. The US and UK’s foreign policy agendas are more closely aligned now than they were under Trump. Biden has also gone out of his way to soothe Britain’s diplomatic anxieties — Johnson was the first European leader that Biden spoke to as President.
The US and the UK both believe that the world is entering into a new era of competition between the democratic and autocratic worlds. This is a view that’s not yet shared by all of the G7. The UK has chosen to invite Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa to this year’s summit to launch a ‘Democratic 11’ of free countries. Biden wants this to pave the way to an international ‘Summit for Democracy’. The South Africans are a late addition to the summit after there were objections that the initial plan for a ‘D10’ lacked African representation. But the Asian tilt of this group is no accident. The UK sees this as crucial to any effort to contain China.

One potential irritant to the US-UK relationship is the Northern Ireland protocol. As the UK-EU standoff over the issue intensifies, Biden — who makes much of his Irish ancestry — is expected to raise the issue with Johnson this week in their bilateral discussions, though even the EU expects the intervention to be relatively mild. However, now that Johnson and David Frost, the cabinet minister responsible for handling the European Union, are explicit that the UK’s principal concern is the protection of the Good Friday Agreement, rather than the protocol itself, it is impossible to see how this issue won’t flare up again.

The second priority is collective security. If the UK had one great diplomatic success during the Trump years, it was in keeping Nato together. Given Trump’s ambiguity about the whole principle that an attack on one was an attack on all, it is an achievement in itself that the alliance has survived.

After the G7 is over, Biden will travel to Brussels for the Nato summit next week. The White House has confirmed that Russian authoritarianism will be discussed, demonstrating the alliance’s traditional utility. But Russia is, ultimately, a declining threat. As America’s focus shifts to the Pacific, Nato will need to become more relevant to the struggle to contain China. This will have to involve partnerships with groups such as the Quad — the emerging alliance of the US, Japan, India and Australia, which is working to counter China in the South China Sea.

The UK, with its connections to India and Australia and its role as the biggest European contributor to Nato, is well placed to argue for this shift. It will not be easy to move the alliance in this direction given, for instance, Germany’s publicly stated desire not to divide the world into opposing blocs. But attitudes to Beijing are changing fast. The EU signed an investment treaty with China at the end of last year — yet just three months later it joined a coordinated western effort to impose sanctions on Chinese officials over abuses in Xinjiang.

The final priority is free trade. The UK hopes to sign its first full post-Brexit trade deal later this month. The deal with Australia is part of the UK push to join the CPTPP, an 11-nation free trade agreement centred on the Pacific. If the UK joins this agreement, it will not only deepen this country’s links with an area of growing economic and strategic importance but it will also ensure that the UK is part of a group that would become crucial to the global trading system if tensions between the West and China were to make it impossible for the World Trade Organisation to function.

The idea that Brexit would lead to a catastrophic loss of Britain’s global influence has always been fanciful. After Brexit, the UK has — in proof of the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention — become a nimbler player on the world stage. Look at how it has repeatedly led the way in terms of sanctions on Belarus.

But the UK does need to stabilise its relationship with the EU. It will be that much harder for the free world to stand up to Russia and China if the UK is at loggerheads with its neighbours. It is going to require compromise and humility on both sides to fix the issues around the Northern Ireland protocol. It would be bad for the western alliance if Britain and the EU became the European equivalent of Japan and South Korea, two key US allies who fall out at the slightest provocation.