To launch the Group of Seven summit on Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met world leaders on a wooden walkway on the freshly raked sand of Carbis Bay, delivering elbow bumps to dignitaries convening for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus was expected to dominate their discussions, with leaders of the G20 expected to commit to sharing at least 1 billion vaccination injections with developing nations.
Under gray and moody skies in southwest England, where leaders will pivot Friday from their "family photo" by the seaside directly into a session on "Building Back Better From COVID-19," U.S. President Joe Biden's commitment to share 500 million doses and Johnson's commitment to share another 100 million shots set the stage for the G-7 meeting.
“We're going to work with our global allies to help lead the globe out of this pandemic,” Biden added. Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan are also members of the G-7.
The leaders believe that the gathering in Carbis Bay would re-energize the global economy as well.
Following an agreement struck by their finance ministers a week ago, they are due to publicly endorse a global minimum tax of at least 15% on companies on Friday.
The bare minimum is intended to deter businesses from exploiting tax havens and other methods to avoid paying taxes.
It represents a potential win for the Biden administration, which has proposed a global minimum tax as a way to pay for infrastructure projects, in addition to creating an alternative that could remove some European countries’ digital services taxes that largely hit U.S. tech firms.
But the endorsement from the G-7 is just one step in the process; the hope is to get many more countries to sign on, and that could be particularly difficult in nations that depend on a low corporate tax base to survive.
The first G-7 summit in two years — last year's was canceled due to the epidemic — allows Johnson to lay out his vision of a post-Brexit "Global Britain" as a midsized country with a large role in international problem-solving.
It's also an occasion to highlight the United Kingdom-United States partnership, which is frequently referred to as the "special relationship" but Johnson prefers to refer to it as the "indestructible friendship."
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Cornwall to encourage politicians to take action on climate change, which is also a prominent subject on the agenda.
A barge bearing big inflatable figures of Biden and Johnson was launched afloat off the shore by some activists. Demonstrators held flags that said "G7 drowning in promises" and "Action not words" at one rally.
On Friday, the official summit business began with the traditional ceremonial welcome and a socially detached group portrait. Later, at the Eden Project, a beautiful, domed eco-tourism facility built in a disused quarry, the leaders will meet Queen Elizabeth II and other senior royals.
The G-7 leaders have been under increasing pressure to explain their worldwide vaccine-sharing plans, particularly as global supply disparities have grown more severe.
There is a significant vaccination stockpile in the United States, and demand for doses has declined dramatically in recent weeks.
Biden announced that the United States will give 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine and hinted at a coordinated effort by industrialized economies to make vaccination broadly and quickly available worldwide.
The vow came on top of Biden's previous pledge to donate 80 million pills by the end of June.
Johnson, for one, stated that the first 5 million doses in the United Kingdom would be distributed in the coming weeks, with the balance arriving over the next year. He predicted that the G-7 would commit to a total of 1 billion doses.
“At the G-7 Summit, I hope my fellow leaders will make similar commitments so that, together, we can vaccine the entire world by the end of next year and recover more quickly from the coronavirus,” she added "In a statement, Johnson referred to a catchphrase that he and Biden have both used.
Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, said she hoped the meeting would show the world that "we're not only thinking about ourselves." "Emmanuel Macron, the French president, praised the US commitment and said Europe should follow suit.
He stated that by the end of the year, France would have distributed at least 30 million doses worldwide; Germany is also aiming to donate that amount.
The United States has pledged to buy and donate 500 million Pfizer doses to 92 low-income nations and the African Union through the global COVAX alliance, ensuring the first reliable supply of mRNA vaccine to those who need it most.
Biden stated that the dosages manufactured in the United States will begin shipping in August, to distribute 200 million by the end of the year.
In the first half of 2022, the remaining 300 million doses will be delivered. The cost of the doses has not been disclosed, but the United States is on track to become COVAX's largest vaccine donor and single greatest contributor, with a $4 billion pledge.
Humanitarian workers expressed gratitude for the donation but stated that more dosages are needed and that they hoped they would arrive sooner.
Grand words and pledges must be accompanied by concrete plans and delivery deadlines, which must begin immediately.
“It's very difficult for low-income countries with fragile health care systems to get those vaccines off the tarmac and into the arms of health care workers if we have a stop-start supply or if we store all the supply up for the end of the year,” said Lily Caprani, UNICEF's head of COVID-19 vaccine advocacy.
“Starting in June and setting the path for the rest of the year, we want a coordinated, time-bound, ambitious commitment.”
The worldwide COVAX alliance has had a sluggish start to its vaccine campaign, while wealthy countries have secured billions of doses through direct contracts with pharmaceutical companies.
Only 81 million doses have been delivered internationally by the coalition, and portions of the world, notably Africa, remain vaccine deserts.
According to one of the initiative's sponsors, vaccination alliance Gavi, only France has begun exporting vaccinations through COVAX among the G-7 countries. France has sent 628,800 doses to seven African nations, with Senegal, a former French colony, getting around 30% of the total.
Some of the 80 million doses the US had already promised to deliver — some of them outside of COVAX — were already on their way, according to Biden. Mexico and Canada have also received a few million immunizations from the United States.
The increased distribution program, according to White House officials, fits a theme that Biden aims to emphasize during his week in Europe: that Western democracies, not authoritarian nations, can offer the best for the globe.
China and Russia have exchanged vaccinations made domestically with some developing nations, frequently with concealed conditions. Biden wants to “show — rallying the rest of the world's democracies — that democracies are the ones that can best offer answers for people everywhere,” according to US national security advisor Jake Sullivan.
Miller contributed reporting from Washington, while Lawless contributed from Falmouth, England. Danica Kirka and Sylvia Hui of the Associated Press in Falmouth, England; Sylvie Corbet of the Associated Press in Paris; Jamey Keaten of the Associated Press in Geneva; Geir Moulson of the Associated Press in Berlin; and Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press in Plymouth, England contributed to this report.
Source: Microsoft News
By ZEKE MILLER, AAMER MADHANI and JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press