But his remarks on a “lab leak” on Sunday were played down by other leaders, and the G7 summit broke up without closing major divides over China.
Leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States called on the World Health Organization to convene a “timely, transparent, expert-led and science-based ”on the origins of Covid-19,“ including in China, ”in a joint statement released Sunday after three days of talks.
In comments that will infuriate Beijing, Biden said neither he nor U.S. intelligence had come to a conclusion as to whether the virus came from a lab, but said he wanted to establish a “Bottom line” for transparency in actions to prevent another pandemic.
“Transparency is important at all levels. We did not have access to the laboratories to determine whether or not … it was a consequence of the market and the interface with animals and the environment, or if it was an experience that hurt shot in a lab, ”Biden said.
Boris Johnson said it was “unlikely” that the coronavirus pandemic had come out of a lab, but added: “Obviously, anyone in their right mind would want to keep an open mind on this. “
French President Emmanuel Macron said “there had been no discussion among leaders about the origins of the virus” and dismissed the theory as a distraction from the fight against the disease. He said the G7 was not a club hostile to China, despite the differences over human rights. The disagreement reflected wider differences over how far to go to confront China over human rights and strategic competition.
Mr Biden arrived in Cornwall seeking firm language condemning China’s human rights record and more direct recognition of the global struggle for influence between the West and Beijing.
He explicitly formulated an agreement to create a “build back better” green infrastructure program for developing countries as a competitor to China’s “Belt and Road” initiative and demanded condemnation of the use by China of Uyghur Muslims as forced labor in garment factories.
But he faced a significant setback from European allies, especially Mr Macron, who did not want to portray the group as “hostile” to China.
The final statement called on China to “respect” human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and separately condemned the use of forced labor in global supply chains, but made no reference to prison labor. Uyghur.
He also stressed “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” rather than criticizing China for its aggressive behavior.
Mr. Biden said he was “satisfied” with the outcome of the talks. “We are competing with autocrats and autocratic governments around the world over whether or not democracies can compete with them in a rapidly evolving 21st century,” he said. “I walked away from the meeting with all my colleagues and believe me, they are convinced that is correct,” he added.
The UK, US, Canada and the EU announced in March a series of sanctions against Chinese officials for human rights violations in Xinjiang. Dissent over China was already apparent long before the leaders arrived in Cornwall on Thursday.
Mr Johnson, who hosted the summit, initially proposed forming a semi-formal “D10” group of democracies with guest powers like Australia, India, South Africa and South Korea in this. that critics have called a thinly veiled attempt to build an anti-China alliance. The idea was dropped following objections from France, Germany and Japan.
However, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi backed Mr Biden’s position and said the G7 needed to be candid about China.
“It is an autocracy that does not adhere to multilateral rules and does not share the same worldview as democracies,” he said.
Mr Draghi also said Italy would “carefully assess” its adherence to the “Belt and Road” initiative, which it joined in 2019, before Mr Draghi becomes prime minister. To date, it is the only country in the European Union to have done so.