G7 focus switches to China, Pope to lead AI discussions

Andrea Shalal and Crispian Balmer |

G7 leaders will hold a second day of talks in Italy where the Pope will make a historic appearance.
G7 leaders will hold a second day of talks in Italy where the Pope will make a historic appearance.

Group of Seven leaders have launched a final day of talks at their annual summit with China topping the agenda before Pope Francis makes a historic appearance to discuss artificial intelligence.

The Pope will be joined by 10 other heads of state and government, including the prime minister of India and the king of Jordan as the G7 throws open its doors to outsiders to show it is not an aloof, exclusive club.

During the first day of their meeting in southern Italy, the G7 nations agreed on a deal to provide $US50 billion ($A75 billion) of loans for Ukraine backed by interest from frozen Russian assets – hailing the accord as a powerful signal of Western resolve.

Friday’s talks will be dominated by concerns surrounding China’s excess industrial capacity which Western governments say is distorting local markets, and its support for Russia’s war effort.

The US this week imposed fresh sanctions on China-based firms supplying semiconductors to Russia, amid worries over Beijing’s increasingly aggressive stance against Taiwan and run-ins with the Philippines over rival maritime claims.

“China is not supplying weapons (to Russia) but the ability to produce those weapons and the technology available to do it, so it is in fact helping Russia,” US President Joe Biden told reporters at the summit on Thursday after signing a bilateral security pact with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

A senior US official said the issue would be raised with other leaders on Friday.

On Tuesday, the EU announced it would impose extra duties of up to 38.1 per cent on imported Chinese electric cars from July, risking retaliation from Beijing, which vowed to take measures to safeguard its interests.

However, there are differences within the G7 on countering Chinese state subsidies, with Europe anxious to avoid an all-out trade war with Beijing.

Besides his speech on AI, the Pope will hold multiple bilateral meetings, including with Biden, Zelenskiy and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

“It is a historic day – we will welcome the Holy Father,” Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni told reporters on Thursday.

“It is the first time for a pontiff at a G7. 

“I am proud it will happen under the Italian presidency.”

Leaders are also discussing immigration, a crucial issue for Meloni who is pushing Europe to help her curb illegal flows from Africa and has launched a flagship plan to boost development in the continent to tackle the root cause of the departures.

Many of the leaders will leave Italy late on Friday, including Biden, and Meloni said they had already agreed on the summit’s conclusions, to be approved at the end of the day.

On Saturday, there will be room for bilateral meetings for those staying on, ahead of a final news conference from Meloni.