Since the G-7 last met two years ago, COVID-19 has killed more than 3.7 million people and decimated economies with lockdowns and layoffs
The Group of Seven (G7) countries will meet on Friday in UK’s Cornwall. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 3.7 million people and destroyed economies, is set to be the top priority on the meeting’s agenda.
The grouping, which consists seven of the world’s richest nations, will also pledge to share coronavirus vaccines with the world’s poorest nations, as part of efforts to help a pandemic-scarred world recover.
As British prime minister Boris Johnson hosts US president Joe Biden and the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada to the cliff-ringed Carbis Bay beach resort in southwest England, pandemic recovery — and, crucially, getting vaccines to billions who lack them — is at the top of the agenda, The Associated Press reported.
“This is the moment for the world’s greatest and most technologically advanced democracies to shoulder their responsibilities and to vaccinate the world, because no one can be properly protected until everyone has been protected,” Johnson said in an article published on Thursday, a day before the summit’s official start.
Johnson, who has faced criticism for months over Britain’s refusal to send any vaccine doses abroad, pledged to donate 100 million jabs in the next year, the first of them by September, and said the G-7 as a whole is expected to give 1 billion doses. Half of that came in a pledge from Biden.
Today, I’m announcing that the United States will donate half a billion new Pfizer vaccines to 92 low- and lower middle-income countries.
These Pfizer vaccines will save millions of lives around the world, and be produced through the power of American manufacturing.
— President Biden (@POTUS) June 10, 2021
Biden, making his first foreign trip as president, announced that the US will buy 500 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine to share with poorer countries over the next year. “America will be the arsenal of vaccines in our fight against COVID-19 ,” Biden said.
India, which has been invited by the UK, will be closely following the allocation of vaccine doses as it faces a shortage.
“India has long called for reforming global institutions and groupings to reflect modern-day geopolitical realities. Trumps’ offer to expand G7 fitted into New Delhi’s idea of being part of the global high table. With an assertive China looming, the US is calling all like-minded countries to partner in dealing with Beijing. If Biden and Johnson want to take the leap forward and constitute a global democratic alliance of 10-11 countries, it will be an important signal,” a report by The Indian Express noted.
COVID-19 vaccines, climate action on G7 agenda this year
Each leader — Biden, Johnson, French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi — will attend the meeting with their own agendas, but the COVID-19 pandemic and climate action are likely to dominate the meeting.
As the host of this year’s summit, the UK has laid out four focus areas for the group: The global recovery from COVID-19 and efforts to prevent future health crises, free and fair trade, tackling climate change, and bolstering shared values.
The theme of the meeting is ‘Build Back Better’, in line with the global effort to rebuild economies from the damage done by COVID-19 .
Biden, who is on his first visit to Europe after being elected as the US president, has announced that the country will distribute 80 million surplus vaccines and ramping up vaccine production.
Before the pandemic, Johnson planned this to be a climate-dominated summit, the AP report said. He had wanted to make it a major staging post to November’s international COP26 meeting on climate change in Glasgow, eliciting ambitious targets for slashing carbon emissions and expanding green industries.
That’s still on the agenda, but the meeting will be dominated by COVID-19 , with discussions focusing on physical and economic recovery and building resilience against future pandemics. The summit’s protocol includes daily coronavirus tests for attending politicians, diplomats, staff and journalists.
Even without the pandemic, this would be a moment of flux for the rich countries’ club. It is also the first G-7 summit for Suga, who took office as Japan’s prime minister in September.
Before leaving Tokyo, Suga said that he would seek support for his determination to hold a “safe and secure” Olympics starting on 23 July, despite the pandemic. The Games face strong opposition in Japan.
The meeting is also a G-7 swan song for Merkel, who will leave office in the coming months after 16 years in power.
Asked what message Merkel wants to send at the summit, a senior German official replied: “The message of the summit overall — and that stands for what the chancellor has stood for over recent years — is that multilateralism, and the G-7, is back.”
‘Very productive’: Joe Biden, Boris Johnson meet ahead of G7 summit
For Johnson, as a divisive leader at home and abroad whose two years in office have been dominated by the consecutive crises of Brexit and the pandemic, the summit is being seen as a major test.
Johnson’s eve-of-summit meeting with Biden on Thursday was a chance to underscore the trans-Atlantic alliance and to set out his vision of a post-Brexit “Global Britain” as a midsized country with an outsized role in international problem-solving.
That may be a challenge, given the distrust in European capitals and Washington surrounding the UK’s decision to leave the EU and the messy process of separation, AP reported.
Biden once called the blustering Johnson a “clone” of former US president Donald Trump and has expressed repeated concern about the destabilizing effect of Brexit on Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK that borders the bloc.
But after a meeting between the two that lasted well over an hour, Johnson described the new president as “a breath of fresh air.” Biden said the meeting had been “very productive.”
Despite the bonhomie, the president and his team have stressed the need to soothe Northern Ireland tensions. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters aboard Air Force One that the president’s commitment to Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace accord was “rock solid.”
Johnson said protecting the Northern Ireland peace agreement was “absolutely common ground” among Britain, the US and the European Union. That may be, but EU leaders are furious at what they see as the UK’s failure to implement the divorce deal that Johnson agreed to.
French president Emmanuel Macron warned Thursday that the Brexit agreement signed by Britain and the EU was not up for renegotiation.
Like many prime ministers before him, Johns summoned the spirit of wartime leader Winston Churchill when meeting the president. In a symbolic show of unity, the two leaders agreed on a new Atlantic Charter — a 21st-century version of the 1941 agreement between Churchill and President Franklin D Roosevelt that helped lay the foundations for the United Nations and NATO.
The new document commits Britain and the US to “defend the principles, values, and institutions of democracy and open societies” and build “an inclusive, fair, climate-friendly, sustainable, rules-based global economy for the 21st century.” The two countries also said they will set up a task force aimed at re-starting trans-Atlantic travel, disrupted by pandemic restrictions.