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China’s influence will be ‘looming large’ at G-7 summit: Fmr. U.S. Diplomat

G-7’s first in-person meeting since the pandemic began kicks off today. Global Situation Room President & Former White House Director of Global Engagement under the Obama Administration Brett Bruen joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss.

Video Transcript

- Let's bring in another voice into the conversation here. We've got Brett Bruen, Global Situation Room president, and former White House director of global engagement under President Obama. And Brett, it's good to talk to you today. What are you going to be watching as this meeting kicks off?

BRETT BRUEN: You know, this is a meeting that's going to unveil-- rather, show some of the details. What we've seen in the first few months of the Biden administration have been a lot of slogans, a lot of goodwill and gestures. What we need now are really those ambitious proposals, the commitments. That's going to be critical to determining whether or not the United States is really back, or whether or not we're going to see more of this kind of detached diplomacy that has been on display, whether it's with Israel, Russia, Afghanistan. Biden has got to send a strong message that the United States is going to be involved, is going to invest internationally.

- Yeah, and on that point, Brett, there has been a lot of skepticism, despite what the president has said about the US being back on the global stage, about the US commitment, not just to working with the G7 countries, but on broader issues like climate. Where do you see the most progress being made? We've already seen the finance ministers sort of set the bar here, lay the groundwork, if you will. What's the big headline that needs to come out of this in order for this to be a success for the president?

BRETT BRUEN: Well, while China may not be actually at the summit, they certainly are looming large over these discussions. And I think all of these leaders want to be able to send a strong signal to Beijing that they can work together, that they can accomplish big things together. And that is going to be a key litmus test for this meeting. Are they able to show that they can be a counterweight to Beijing's influence, both across Asia, and indeed, around the world?

- Yeah, I want to get your take on the tax plan here, and the globe-- all these countries around the world coming together for a unified tax plan, which would be really an historic first. Even in the EU they don't have something that's similar. They have the coordinated monetary policy, but not fiscal necessarily. How is this evolving?

BRETT BRUEN: It is a unprecedented step for the countries to come together, to set that minimum tax rate. And while obviously, it only includes seven economies, these are seven of the most important economies. And it's also setting a standard. And I think we will see other countries signing on to this.

And that allows us to make a whole lot of progress as we are trying to deal with some of these tax haven issues, as we're trying to set the standard for companies. It makes it easier for companies. You know, what they can expect that predictability, and being able to plan out, and to understand that everybody is going to be playing by these same rules. And there will be less of these games and the differences that you're going to see between how companies comply or don't with certain tax regulation.

- Having said that, Brett, how much progress can actually be made through the G7? If you're talking about the US, for example, we've already seen a number of lawmakers come forward and say, this just isn't going to work. And ultimately, the president's going to need the buy in from Congress.

BRETT BRUEN: It's true, but the president is able, at these summits, to set the agenda, set the global agenda, and I think show that he has the backing of major powers. And he will bring that back to Washington. And he will use that as leverage to try and push ahead, whether it's with climate change, with trade, with a whole host of other items on his agenda.

So this serves a domestic purpose as well as an international purpose. I think Biden really does want to draw contrast with what his predecessor achieved or didn't on the world stage. And he wants to bring home the bacon.

- And you have to imagine, Biden really wants this to be a win, to be a success. What are the metrics he's going to be using to be able to claim that, if at all? Because this is going to be a very, very long process for all the items discussed.

BRETT BRUEN: For Biden to claim success, he's got to show what he was able to extract from other world leaders. So I think the commitments around COVID vaccines are important. And that certainly will help.

But we also have got to see commitments when it comes to climate change, when it comes to issues of global security. All of that allows him to say, you know, the United States, yes, is going to be spending significant sums on this, but so too are our partners. And that was one of the key arguments, if you remember, that President Trump was making, that other allies were not pulling their fair share. So Biden has to show that his kind of diplomacy can make the difference.

- On the issue of climate change, you've got this clean energy initiative. Reportedly, countries committing to $100 billion in international financing to try and build out this clean energy infrastructure, especially in developing countries. But China's been at this for more than five years now through the Belt and Road Initiative. How big of a dent do you think these countries can make combined? And how significant is this going to be if the countries really are looking to get to that goal of net zero by 2050?

BRETT BRUEN: Well, the difference with what the US, what G7 countries can do, and China, really comes down to quality. It comes down to concessions. That is to say, yes, China will come with suitcases full of investment. But it isn't necessarily the kind of investment that is durable. It's not the kind of investment that comes without certain strings attached.

So if the US and our allies can come to the table and show that we are ready to make investments, certainly investments around clean energy, and we're doing it in a more sustainable way, we're doing it in a way that isn't going to try and pull strings in these countries for certain policies or political favors, that can really limit China's effectiveness.

Because up until now-- and I served as a diplomat in Africa for many years-- China has had carte blanche, because they were the only ones showing up to the table with this kind of assistance. If we're now going to get in the game, that, I think, could play a big role in helping to bring more of these countries back to our side.

- And finally, Brett, another country I imagine is going to be coming up a lot behind closed doors is Russia. You've got that meeting between President Biden and Vladimir Putin looming over the G7 summit at a time when there's concerns about cyber hacking, concerns about Putin cracking down on opposition leaders. What's the message? What's the commitment you think the president is going to be seeking from his allies?

BRETT BRUEN: Well, I have to say, I've been a bit disappointed up until now with the policy-- the approach of the Biden administration. This notion that we're going to seek a predictable and stable relationship with Moscow really runs in the face of everything that we have lived through over the course of the last several years. I was in the situation room when we were having these conversations back in 2014. And we were saying the exact same thing. And Putin doesn't want predictability. He doesn't want stability.

So we have got to look at how do we create a greater deterrent. How do we get more aggressive? It's always been a challenge to bring our European allies along with us on those aggressive positions. But I think Biden has got to go to Switzerland and to send a very clear message to Putin to knock it off. And these will be the consequences. We've--

You know, the days of slapping on a couple sanctions, tossing out a few spies, it's just not enough anymore. We've got to get stronger.

- Yeah, I definitely hear that. I want to thank you for your time here, Brett Bruen, Global Situation Room president, and former White House director of global engagement under the Obama administration.