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UK foreign secretary signals drive for strategic autonomy

LONDON — The world’s democracies must break their strategic dependency on energy, investment and technology from China and Russia, the British foreign secretary said on Wednesday.

In her first major speech since taking up her new role, Liz Truss said Western democracies and developing countries have grown increasingly dependent on China and Russia, which are exploiting this “complacency.”

Truss pointed out that 44 low- and medium-income countries have debts to Beijing amounting to more than 10 percent of their GDP, while the EU relies on Russia for over 40 percent of its gas.

“We have to end this strategic dependency, whether it’s on energy, investment or technology,” she told the Chatham House think tank Wednesday. “We have to provide an alternative. And that means stepping up our engagement and our investment. It means shaping the economy, including the next wave of technology like quantum computing, 6G, artificial intelligence and much more.”

Truss said the U.K. should strengthen ties with countries that, despite not being democracies, “don’t actively want to undermine the way of life we have here in the United Kingdom.”

Britain sees the EU as a “critical ally” for this agenda, despite disagreements in other policy areas, she added.

New government strategies on technology and development, to be announced next year, will be geared toward increasing strategic autonomy, Truss said. Helping developing countries reduce their exposure to China and Russia by forging trade ties with Western democracies, and boosting development finance will also be important elements of this agenda.

London will support infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean for the first time, as well as Africa, through the British International Investment (BII) body, which was revamped last month and is expected to mobilize up to £8 billion a year of public and private sector investment in international projects by 2025, up from £1.5 billion a year.

Truss said she will encourage Britain’s allies to make equivalent increases for development infrastructure at a meeting of foreign ministers of G7 nations, which takes place in Liverpool from Friday through Sunday. The government wants to discuss how to make these schemes a competitive alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative.

The U.K. insists the G7 meeting will not be an anti-China discussion, despite having invited foreign ministers from Australia and the Republic of Korea — which are not G7 members — as well as counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The foreign ministers will also discuss Russian influence in Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans, including growing concerns over a potential incursion in Ukraine and a secession of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Truss will also meet her Ukrainian counterpart in London later Wednesday.

https://ift.tt/eA8V8J December 08, 2021 at 05:58PM
Cristina Gallardo

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