CARBIS BAY, England – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson greeted world leaders on a boardwalk on the freshly raked sands of Carbis Bay to open the Group of Seven summit on Friday, nudging dignitaries gathered for the premiere times since the start of the COVID -19 pandemic. The virus was expected to dominate their discussions, with leaders of the club of wealthy democracies having to pledge to share at least 1 billion vaccines with struggling countries.
A pledge from US President Joe Biden to share 500 million doses and one from Johnson for an additional 100 million takes paved the way for the G-7 meeting under gray and dreary skies in southwest England, where leaders will pivot Friday from their seaside “family photo” directly into a “Building Better from COVID-19” session.
“We are going to help pull the world out of this pandemic by working alongside our global partners,” Biden said. The G-7 also includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.
Leaders hope the meeting in the resort town of Carbis Bay will also boost the global economy. They are expected to officially adopt a global minimum corporate tax of at least 15% on Friday, following a deal reached a week ago by their finance ministers. The minimum aims to prevent businesses from using tax havens and other tools to avoid taxes.
This represents a potential victory 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 taxes on digital services from some European countries that hit heavily. American technology companies. But the approval of the G-7 is only one step in the process; the hope is to get many more countries to join, and this could be especially difficult in countries that depend on a low corporate tax base to survive.
For Johnson, the first G-7 summit in two years – last year’s one was scuttled by the pandemic – is an opportunity to articulate his vision of a post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ as than a medium-sized country with a disproportionate role in international problems. solve.
It’s also an opportunity to highlight the UK-US bond, an alliance often referred to as a “special relationship” – but which Johnson has said he prefers to call the “indestructible relationship”.
Climate change is also a high priority on the agenda, and hundreds of protesters gathered in Cornwall to urge leaders to take action. Some activists sent a barge floating off the coast that carried large inflatable figures depicting Biden and Johnson. During a demonstration, the demonstrators carried flags on which one could read “The G7 is drowning in the promises” and “The action, not the words”.
Official summit business began on Friday, with the usual formal greetings and a socially distanced group photo. Later, leaders will meet Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the Royal Family at the Eden Project, a lush, dome-shaped ecotourism site built in a former quarry.
G-7 leaders have faced increasing pressure to define their global vaccine sharing plans, especially as supply inequalities around the world have become more pronounced. In the United States, there is a large stock of vaccines and the demand for vaccines has dropped sharply in recent weeks.
Biden said the United States will donate 500 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and foresee a coordinated effort from advanced economies to make the vaccination widely and quickly available everywhere. The pledge was in addition to the 80 million doses Biden had already pledged to give by the end of June.
Johnson, for his part, said the first 5 million doses in the UK will be shared in the coming weeks, with the rest coming over the next year. He said he expected the G-7 to commit to 1 billion doses in all.
“At the G-7 summit, I hope my fellow leaders will make similar commitments so that together we can vaccinate the world by the end of next year and build back better from the coronavirus,” said Johnson in a statement, referring to a slogan that he and Biden both used.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she hoped the summit would show the world “we are not just thinking of ourselves”, while French President Emmanuel Macron praised the United States’ commitment and said that Europe should do the same. He said France would share at least 30 million doses worldwide by the end of the year; Germany also plans to donate this amount.
The United States’ commitment is to purchase and donate 500 million doses of Pfizer for distribution through the COVAX global alliance to 92 low-income countries and the African Union, bringing the first regular supply of vaccine to MRNA to countries that need it most.
Biden said the U.S.-made doses will be shipped from August, with a goal of distributing 200 million by the end of the year. The remaining 300 million doses would be shipped in the first half of 2022. The price of the doses has not been released, but the United States is now expected to be COVAX’s largest vaccine donor, in addition to its biggest donor. of funds with a commitment of $ 4 billion.
Aid workers welcomed the donation, but said the world needed more doses and hoped they would arrive sooner. Big statements and promises must be honored with detailed plans backed by delivery times, starting immediately.
“If we have a stop-start supply or if we stock all the supply for the end of the year, it is very difficult for low-income countries with rather fragile health systems to be able to then really pull these vaccines out of the way. tarmac and in the arms of health workers, “said Lily Caprani, COVID-19 vaccine advocacy officer at UNICEF.” We want a coordinated, time-bound and ambitious commitment from June and chart the course. lane for the rest of the year. “
The global COVAX alliance got off to a slow start to its vaccination campaign as wealthier countries blocked billions of doses through contracts directly with drug makers. The alliance has only distributed 81 million doses worldwide and some parts of the world, particularly in Africa, remain vaccine deserts.
So far, among the G-7 countries, only France has started shipping vaccines via COVAX, according to one of the leaders of the initiative, the Gavi vaccine alliance. France delivered a total of 628,800 doses to seven African countries – Senegal, a former French colony, receiving around 30% of that total.
Biden said Thursday that some of the 80 million doses the United States had previously committed to donate – some outside of COVAX – have already been shipped. The United States has also given a few million vaccines to its neighbors, Mexico and Canada.
White House officials have said the fast-track distribution program fits a theme Biden plans to hit frequently during his week in Europe: that Western democracies, not authoritarian states, can offer the most good to the world. world.
China and Russia have shared their locally produced vaccines with some needy countries, often with hidden conditions. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Biden “wants to show – by rallying the rest of the world’s democracies – that democracies are the countries that can best offer solutions to people around the world.”