G-7 Summit Kicks Off With ‘Build Back Better’ Message

PLYMOUTH, ENGLAND, – Day one of the G-7 summit has concluded, in Cornwall, England, where leaders of seven wealthy democracies aim to lead the global fight against the pandemic and to “build back better” toward a greener, more prosperous and equitable future.

The summit is hosted by Britain and attended by leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. Representatives from the European Union also are attending, along with other guests — the heads of Australia, South Africa and South Korea. India’s prime minister joined via video link.

“This is a meeting that genuinely needs to happen,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson, this year’s host, as he opened the plenary session of leaders. “We need to make sure that we learn the lessons from the pandemic, we need to make sure that we don’t repeat some of the errors that we doubtless made in the course of the last 18 months or so.”

Johnson said that he wants the G-7 to be “building back better, building back greener, building back fairer, and building back more equal and in a more gender-neutral and perhaps more feminine way.”

While past G-7 meetings were marked with lavish banquets, massive delegations and media entourages, this year’s sessions are severely restricted. Masks, daily COVID-19 testing and other health protocols are stark reminders the coronavirus crisis is far from over.

“The world will look to the G-7 to apply our shared values and diplomatic might, to the challenge of defeating the pandemic and leading a global recovery,” said Johnson.

The pandemic caused leaders to skip last year’s summit. The last time the G-7 met in person was in Biarritz, France, in 2019.

G-7 pandemic plan

Johnson said the G-7 will announce a plan to donate a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to low- and middle-income countries, including 100 million doses from Britain.

Johnson’s announcement Thursday came after U.S. President Joe Biden said earlier in the day that his administration is donating 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, half of the G-7 vaccine trove.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the commitment but said it is not enough and production must be doubled.

“We need a concerted effort,” he told reporters at the G-7 via a video link from London. “For that we need a global vaccination plan.”

He proposed bringing together all the countries with the capability to produce the vaccines — or countries that could with the right support — into an emergency task force.

They would be supported by the World Health Organization, GAVI, COVAX and international financial institutions and would be involved in the production and equitable distribution of vaccines to the developing world.

Guterres also expressed support for lifting patents on vaccine technology, saying, “It’s obvious that we need to share the knowledge and share all the aspects necessary to allow for doubling the production of vaccines.”

Climate change

G-7 countries will commit to reduce CO2 emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, a change from the previously agreed 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise.

“The science has changed a bit. It’s become clear that 1.5 degrees is perhaps more important than we thought earlier,” said Samantha Gross, director of the Energy Security and Climate Initiative at the Brookings Institution. “This is really difficult to achieve. And so, this is a really significant commitment,” Gross added.

The group also agreed to no longer fund coal plants after the end of 2021, an important concession by Japan, which relies on them.

The G-7 communique on Sunday is expected to serve as a foundation ahead of Glasgow COP26, the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference in November, that Britain also will host.

Trade and economy

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday on Twitter that G-7 leaders at the summit will endorse Biden’s proposal for a minimum global tax rate of 15% that companies would have to pay regardless of where they are based.

The deal had been expected after G-7 finance officials backed the proposal last week. It aims to stop large multinational companies from seeking out tax havens and force them to pay more of their income to governments.

“America is rallying the world to make big multinational corporations pay their fair share so we can invest in our middle class at home,” Sullivan tweeted on Friday.

The G-7 has plenty of disagreements on trade, including long-running disputes over Airbus and Boeing subsidies, as well as steel and aluminum tariffs that then-President Trump imposed in 2018. But they are expected to focus on areas of common ground, including coming up with a commitment to uphold and strengthen the “rules-based multilateral trading system” and “international trade rules.” Members including the U.S. and Britain have often accused Beijing of undermining the multilateral trade system.

China, while not part of the group, has dominated the agenda. In a June 5 opinion piece in The Washington Post, Biden wrote that the G-7 will also be announcing a “high-standard alternative to China for upgrading physical, digital and health infrastructure that is more resilient and supports global development.”

The group is expected to include gender equality in their pandemic recovery strategy, to “build back fairer” toward an economy and education system that ensures women are the forefront of global recovery.

The G-7 countries are major trading partners, and collectively the group accounts for about half of the global economy.

Eden Project

At the end of the first day, leaders and their partners attended a reception with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton. The reception was held at the Eden Project — a botanical garden shaped like bio-domes that create a rainforest environment.

The G-7 summit ends on Sunday. Biden and first lady Jill Biden will continue their tour and attend Brussels-based summits with the European Union and NATO, and the president’s highly anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday.

Source: Voice of America