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Biden Seizes On G-20 Summit To Reverse Trump’s Approach To World Problems

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President Biden sought to reverse key policies and approaches of former president Donald Trump during this weekend’s summit of the Group of 20, and attempted to ensure those reversals would stay in place even if there is a change in American leadership.

Some of the leaders said the weekend meeting, which comes in advance of a major climate summit this week, helped re-establish a multilateral system that had been broken in recent years. “We have a common ambition now, which we didn’t have before,” said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi as the summit concluded. Still, several key leaders did not attend the conference in person, which Biden called a “disappointment.” They included Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Biden lifted steel and aluminum tariffs enacted by Trump that had caused friction between the U.S. and the European Union. He huddled with allies on how to reinvigorate talks aimed at preventing Iran from securing a nuclear weapon, which the last administration had abandoned. He forged an agreement aimed at ensuring corporations pay more taxes.

And he struck a deal with other nations to end government funding of new coal-fired power plants, part of a broader agenda to curtail climate change and reclaim international leadership on a topic Trump eschewed.

“The United States of America is the most critical part of this entire agenda,” Biden said at a Sunday news conference, responding to a suggestion that the U.S. return to global leadership remains in doubt. “Everyone sought me out. Everyone wanted to know what our views were.” Biden spoke at La Nuvola, an airy building in a complex outside the heart of the city that housed the meeting of the world’s major economic powers.

But Biden’s top advisers acknowledged that world leaders approached the talks with a concern that Trump, or a figure similarly dismissive of U.S. allies, could return to power in 2024 or after.

“Our allies believe that we have to lock in progress as much as possible while there is a president who is a deeply committed transatlanticist in office,” said a senior administration official, speaking to reporters in Rome on Saturday evening. The official was not authorized to speak publicly.

That meant enshrining the policy changes in formal pacts and high-profile deals as much as possible.

Biden framed some of the agreements on the global stage as intended to solve U.S. domestic problems, part of his overarching goal of a “foreign policy for the middle class.”

That included a meeting Sunday on the global supply chain, saying the measures adopted would ease the flow of goods to American shelves.

“Supply chain is something that most of our citizens never think twice about unless something goes wrong,” Biden said. “Even as I’ve been here in Rome, as you might guess . . . I’ve been focused on the vital issues that affect American workers and families at home.”

Leaders of the world’s largest economies did reach an agreement to halt the public financing of coal-fired power plants abroad by the end of this year. But they did not set a target for ending coal use domestically, which climate activists say is needed as part of an effort to stave off catastrophic warming of the planet.

Biden, in his remarks Sunday, made it clear that his time in Rome included poignant moments that went beyond his challenges at home and abroad.

He spoke emotionally about his Friday meeting with Pope Francis, his voice breaking as he recounted to reporters how the current head of the Catholic church comforted his family after the death of his son, Beau, in 2015.

Biden, the second Catholic to be president, said he finds “real solace” in his relationship with Pope Francis, with whom he shares progressive values on issues such as climate change.

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