G7 Leaders Focus on Cooperation to Prepare for Next Health Crisis
President Biden and his allies are expected to sign a declaration aimed at avoiding another devastating pandemic. Here’s the latest from the summit.,
Last year, President Donald J. Trump angrily rejected global cooperation on health, pulling the United States out of the World Health Organization and asserting an “America First” approach to the pandemic and other global health concerns.
At the G-7 summit on Saturday, President Biden pushed for a more unified approach to combating the pandemic, and urged his counterparts to embrace cooperation aimed at building up the world’s health care infrastructure so it will be able to respond more quickly to future emergencies.
One of Mr. Biden’s first actions as president was to rejoin the W.H.O. After more than a year of coronavirus-induced human hardship and economic woes, the leaders gathered at the Group of 7 summit are expected to sign a declaration on global health intended to ensure that the pandemic’s toll is never repeated.
The Carbis Bay declaration, named for the location of the summit, is described by the organizers as a “historic statement setting out a series of concrete commitments to prevent any repeat of the human and economic devastation wreaked by coronavirus.”
It will be one of a series of actions taken during the G7 in response to the pandemic, which has dominated the summit’s agenda much in the way it has loomed over most major events of the last year. As part of their declaration, the seven nations will not only confront the current crisis with one billion doses of vaccine for less developed nations, but they will pledge to take steps to decrease the chances of a future global health crisis.
Those include cutting the time it takes to approve vaccines to under 100 days, a period that is considered critical for containing the spread of a virus, and reinforcing the world’s ability to track and sequence diseases. In addition, Britain will create the Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Center to accelerate the creation of vaccines for diseases that are transferred from livestock to humans.
“We need to make sure that we learn the lessons from the pandemic,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters on Saturday. “We need to make sure that we don’t repeat some of the errors that we doubtless made over the course over the last 18 months or so.”
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, said his organization will welcome the move.
“Together we need to build on the significant scientific and collaborative response to the Covid-19 pandemic and find common solutions to address many of the gaps identified,” he said in a statement, noting that the world needed a stronger global surveillance system to more quickly detect the risks of pandemics.
PLYMOUTH, England — President Biden urged Western nations and Japan on Saturday to counter China’s growing economic and security influence by offering developing nations hundreds of billions in financing as an alternative to relying on Beijing for new roads, railways, ports and communication networks.
It was the first time the world’s richest nations had discussed such a direct challenge to China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative, President Xi Jinping’s overseas lending and investment project, which has now spread across Africa, Latin America and into Europe itself.
But the White House cited no financial commitments, and there is sharp disagreement among the United States and its allies about how to respond to China’s rising power.
Mr. Biden has made challenging China the centerpiece of a foreign policy designed to build up democracies around the world as a bulwark against creeping authoritarianism. Beijing, for its part, has pointed to the poor U.S. response to the pandemic and its divisive domestic politics as signs that democracy is failing.
It is far from clear that the wealthy democracies will be able to muster a comprehensive response like the one proposed by Mr. Biden, which the White House gave a name with roots in his presidential campaign theme — “Build Back Better for the World,” shortened to B3W, a play on China’s BRI.
Instead, the plan appeared to stitch together existing projects in the United States, Europe and Japan, along with an encouragement of private financing, with an emphasis on the environment, anti-corruption efforts, the free flow of information and the avoidance of future debt crises.
Mr. Biden used the meeting to advance his argument that the fundamental struggle in the post-pandemic era will be democracies versus autocracies. Officials emerging from the session said there was a clear division of opinion about how to take on China.
For Mr. Biden, the first test may be whether he can persuade the allies to reject participation in any projects that rely on forced labor. It is unclear, American officials said, what kind of language about rejecting goods or investments in such projects would be included in the meeting’s final communique, to be issued on Sunday.
After President Biden meets his Russian counterpart on Wednesday, the two men will not face the press at a joint news conference, United States officials said on Saturday.
Instead, Mr. Biden will face the press by himself after two private sessions with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, a move designed to deny the Russian leader an international platform like the one he received during a 2018 summit in Helsinki with President Donald J. Trump.
“We expect this meeting to be candid and straightforward, and a solo press conference is the appropriate format to clearly communicate with the free press the topics that were raised in the meeting,” a U.S. official said in a statement sent to reporters, “both in terms of areas where we may agree and in areas where we have significant concerns.”
Top aides to Mr. Biden said that during negotiations over the meetings, to be held at an 18th-century Swiss villa on the shores of Lake Geneva, the Russian government was eager to have Mr. Putin join Mr. Biden in a news conference. But Biden administration officials said that they were mindful of how Mr. Putin seemed to get the better of Mr. Trump in Helsinki.
At that news conference, Mr. Trump publicly accepted Mr. Putin’s assurances that his government did not interfere with the 2016 election, taking the Russian president’s word rather than the assessments of his own intelligence officials.
The spectacle in 2018 drew sharp condemnations from across the political spectrum for providing an opportunity for Mr. Putin to spread falsehoods. Senator John McCain at the time called it “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
Mr. Putin has had a long and contentious relationship with United States presidents, who have sought to maintain relations with Russia even as the two nations clashed over nuclear weapons, aggression toward Ukraine and, more recently, cyberattacks and hacking.
President Barack Obama met several times with Mr. Putin, including at a joint appearance during the 2013 Group of 8 summit in Northern Ireland. Mr. Obama came under criticism at the time from rights groups for giving Mr. Putin a platform and for not challenging the Russian president more directly on human rights.
In the summer of 2001 — before the Sept. 11 terror attacks — President George W. Bush held a joint news conference with Mr. Putin at a summit in Slovenia. At the news conference, Mr. Bush famously said: “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.”
At the time, then-Senator Biden said: “I don’t trust Mr. Putin; hopefully the president was being stylistic rather than substantive.”
Biden administration officials said on Saturday that the two countries were continuing to finalize the format for the meeting on Wednesday with Mr. Putin. They said that the current plan called for a working session involving top aides in addition to the two leaders, and a smaller session.
When the Group of 7 leaders gathered Saturday to discuss China’s growing global influence, they immediately agreed on one thing: They didn’t want anyone listening.
In a sign of the growing concern about pervasive Chinese surveillance, British organizers cut off all internet and Wi-Fi links around the meeting room, leaving the leaders disconnected from the outside world.
Finding common ground on how to battle China’s economic sway during the meeting isn’t as easy, however.
President Biden is urging Europe to offer hundreds of billions in loans to developing nations in a direct challenge to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is funding projects in developing nations around the globe.
Group of 7 leaders largely agree that China is using its investment strategy both to bolster its state-owned enterprises and to build a network of commercial ports and communications systems over which it would exercise significant control. But there is sharp disagreement about how to respond.
Officials emerging from the meeting said there was a clear division of opinion about how to take on China. Germany, Italy and the European Union were clearly concerned about risking their huge trade and investment deals with Beijing or accelerating what has increasingly taken on the tones of a new Cold War.
Still, Mr. Biden senses an opening, as European nations have begun to understand the risks of dependency on Chinese supply chains, and have watched China’s reach extend into their own backyards.
Britain, which once pursued arguably the most China-friendly policy in Europe, has swung firmly behind the American hard line, particularly on Huawei, China’s telecommunications champion, which the U.S. sees as a security threat. After trying to accommodate Huawei, Britain announced, under Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that it was ripping out older Huawei equipment from its networks.
Germany, for which China has become the No. 1 market for Volkswagens and BMWs, remains committed to engagement and is deeply resistant to a new Cold War. It has kicked decisions about using Huawei and other Chinese-made networking equipment down the road, after threats from Chinese officials to retaliate with a ban on the sale of German luxury cars in China.
Italy became the first member of the G7 to sign up to Belt and Road in 2019. It then had to back away, in part, under pressure from NATO allies who feared that Italian infrastructure, including the telecommunications network, would be dependent on Chinese technology.
When China shipped face masks and ventilators to a desperate Italy during its Covid outbreak, an Italian official pointedly told his fellow Europeans that the country would remember who its friends were after the pandemic.
France did not join Belt and Road, though it has welcomed Chinese investment in the country and stopped short of banning Huawei from its wireless network. Relations with China cooled after President Emmanuel Macron criticized Beijing for its lack of transparency on the origins of the coronavirus.
“America would be well served if the European Union got its act together and defined a coherent China strategy,” said Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador to the United States. “Its interests are not well served if there is a German China strategy, a French China strategy and a British China strategy.”
President Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, are scheduled to meet again with Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday at Windsor Castle as part of the U.S. leader’s first foreign trip as president.
The president and first lady will visit with the queen before traveling to Brussels for meetings with NATO and European Union leaders.
The world’s longest reigning monarch, Elizabeth has met with every American president since Harry S. Truman, except Lyndon B. Johnson.
The British monarch last hosted an American president in June 2019, when Donald J. Trump visited the country on a lavish state visit. The event stirred some debate because only a handful of American presidents have received the honor of an official state visit.
On a previous visit, in 2018, Mr. Trump made headlines by walking in front of Elizabeth, 95, during an inspection of the royal guard, which was seen as a breach of protocol.
Sunday will be the second visit with the queen this weekend for Mr. Biden and the first lady. Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Prince William joined Group of 7 leaders on Friday for a reception and dinner, as the royal family made an unusually robust presence around the edges of the annual summit.
The royals played host to the leaders at the Eden Project, an environmental and educational center in Cornwall, England, about 35 miles from Carbis Bay, where the summit is being held.
In addition to the queen, Charles, the Prince of Wales and heir to the throne; and his eldest son, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge; Charles’s wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; and William’s wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge; also attended.
Earlier Friday, the first lady, Jill Biden, visited a school in Cornwall with the Duchess of Cambridge.
The summit comes just two months after the death of Prince Philip, the queen’s husband of 73 years. But Elizabeth quickly resumed her schedule of public appearances. Friday marked her first meeting with any foreign leader since the start of the pandemic.
— Traci Carl
President Emmanuel Macron of France said Saturday that the United States is “definitely” back, a sign that President Biden is making headway in repairing European ties that frayed during the Trump administration.
In February, during a virtual visit with America’s European allies, Mr. Biden declared that “America is back” but Macron wasn’t convinced. The French president argued for “strategic autonomy” from the United States and said that Europe can no longer be overly dependent on America.
That set the stage for this weekend’s Group of 7 meeting in England. Mr. Biden, on his first foreign trip as president, argued that the United States and Europe must come together, even after a very public rupture in 2018, when President Donald J. Trump refused to sign the G7 summit’s joint statement and insisted that Russia be allowed back into the group.
On Saturday, Mr. Macron and Mr. Biden posed for photographers near the sea in Cornwall. When a reporter asked the U.S. president if America was back, Mr. Biden gestured toward Mr. Macron and said: “Ask him.” The French president, smiling broadly, said: “Yeah, definitely.”
Mr. Biden, pleased with the response, said he agreed that things have improved.
“Things are going, I think, well,” he said. “And we are — as we say back in the States — we’re on the same page.”
Macron echoed that sentiment, saying the two countries must face climate change, the pandemic and many other challenges together.
“For all these issues what we need is cooperation, and it’s great to have a U.S. president part of the club and very willing to cooperate,” he said, turning toward Mr. Biden. “And I think what you demonstrate is that leadership is partnership.”
— Traci Carl
Group of 7 summits like the one taking place in southwestern England this week once drew large protests.
In 1998, 70,000 people formed a human chain that ringed the city center of Birmingham, England, where President Bill Clinton and other leaders were meeting. In 2001 in Italy, more than 200,000 demonstrators massed at the Group of 7 in Genoa, setting off clashes with the police. In 2007 in Germany, protesters leapt out of the woods in black hoods and bandannas to hurl tree limbs across road to block access to the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm.
Yet since then, the summit’s organizers have become much more effective at putting distance between activists and the leaders.
Mustering anger is also not easy when Covid restrictions make it difficult to mobilize large crowds, security cordons keep protesters miles away from where the leaders are staying, and one of the prime antagonists at such gatherings, President Donald J. Trump, has been replaced by the more emollient President Biden.
The airtight security presence has not deterred activists from creatively dramatizing their causes. Among the most striking examples is “Mount Recyclemore,” a tribute to the carved granite heads of Mount Rushmore composed of discarded circuit boards, laptop covers and castoff cellphone pieces, along with a floating blimp that caricatures Mr. Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain.
And on Saturday, Surfers Against Sewage organized a paddle out from Gyllyngvase beach in Falmouth that saw hundreds gather to highlight the effect of climate change on the world’s oceans.
But it all shows how challenging it is to be an activist at the G7 this year.
Alberto Pezzali/Associated Press
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While many things have changed since the last in-person meeting of Group of 7 leaders, from a pandemic to a new United States president, one thing remains the same: Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is the only woman among the leaders of the Group of 7 member nations gathered to discuss the most pressing global issues.
Despite the paucity of female leadership, the G7 has made gender equality one of the five central themes of this year’s summit, as it has in years past. A new independent Gender Equality Advisory Council was formed to set out recommendations on how G7 nations should work together to ensure that women around the world are at the forefront as the group maps out a plan for pandemic recovery.
But an absence of gender diversity doesn’t end at the G7, of course. Just 22 countries currently have a female head of government or head of state — an underrepresentation that risks further marginalization of issues including gender equality.
Ms. Merkel is one of only a few women ever to have taken part in the summit as leaders of member countries — the others being Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May of Britain, and (as an earlier version of this item neglected to mention) Kim Campbell, who briefly served as Canada’s prime minister. Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, is also taking part in this year’s gathering as a leader of the European Union.
With Ms. Merkel due to step down after Germany holds elections in September, there might be no elected female leaders in the G7 in 2022.
Writing this week in The Independent newspaper, Jess Philips, a British lawmaker and advocate for women’s rights, urged “that the specific problems faced by women must not be forgotten when the world’s leaders gather.”
“We are a long way away from there being enough women in that particular room,” she wrote. “So all we can do is bang a drum outside and ask them not to forget us when they talk about recovery and our world’s future.”
Jesco Denzel/German Federal Government, via Associated Press
Pool photo by Michael Kappeler
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Pool photo by Markus Schreiber
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Even as the Group of 7 announced during its summit this week that its member nations would donate one billion coronavirus vaccine doses to poorer nations, the gathering’s host country, Britain, is facing a reminder that it isn’t out of the woods yet on the pandemic either.
The news media call June 21 “freedom day” — the fast approaching moment when England’s remaining coronavirus restrictions are scheduled to be cast off, allowing pubs to fill to capacity, nightclubs to open their doors and the curtain to rise in theaters around the country.
But a recent spike in cases of the highly transmissible coronavirus variant called Delta has prompted such alarm among scientists and health professionals that the country now seems destined to wait a little longer for its liberty.
For Prime Minister Boris Johnson, oft accused of doing too little, too late to combat the virus, the stakes are high. The question is not so much whether to postpone “freedom day,” but to what degree. Four weeks seems to be the maximum under consideration, with some advocating a limited version of the full opening and others favoring a two-week delay.
An announcement on the next steps is scheduled for Monday, and Mr. Johnson planned to study the data this weekend. But many health professionals have already made up their minds over the seriousness of the threat from the Delta variant, first detected in India.
The concern is that a surge of cases caused by the new variant could translate into a sharper uptick in hospitalizations and risk the virus once again overwhelming the National Health Service.
For three days, beginning Friday, some of the world’s most powerful leaders are descending on a small Cornish village for a series of meetings as part of the Group of 7 summit, which brings together the heads of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
So what exactly is the G7, and why does it matter?
The nations belonging to the club are the world’s wealthiest large democracies, close allies and major trading partners that account for about half of the global economy.
With broadly similar views on trade, political pluralism, security and human rights, they can — when they agree — wield enormous collective influence. Their heads of government meet, along with representatives of the European Union, to discuss economic issues and major international policies.
Those attending this years’ gathering include leaders from the G7 member countries — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — plus the European Union, guests Australia, South Africa and South Korea, along with India via video link.
The group, whose origins go back to the 1973 oil crisis, grew out of an informal gathering of finance ministers from Britain, the United States, France, Japan and what was then West Germany — initially known as the Big Five — as they tried to agree on a way forward.
Since the 1970s, the group and its later additional members have met dozens of times to work on major global issues that affect the international economy, security, trade, equality and climate change. In 2015, the summit paved the way for the Paris agreement to limit global emissions, which was decided later that year.
For a time, the group had eight members — remember the G8? — but Russia, always something of an outlier, was kicked out in 2014 amid international condemnation of President Vladimir V. Putin’s annexation of Crimea. Last year, President Donald J. Trump said he believed Russia should be reinstated.
Atop the agenda this year will be the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the global economy, with a focus on worldwide recovery and vaccination.
This summit, hosted by Britain, which currently holds the group’s presidency, is the 47th of its kind and will continue through Sunday. Last year’s summit was canceled because of the pandemic, making this gathering the first in-person G7 Leaders’ Summit in almost two years. The last was in August 2019 in Biarritz, France.
When the top economic officials from the world’s advanced economies, in the days leading up to the Group of 7 summit, unveiled a broad agreement that aims to stop large multinational companies from seeking out tax havens and force them to pay more of their income to governments, it was a breakthrough in a yearslong efforts to overhaul international tax laws.
The agreement would also impose an additional tax on some of the largest multinational companies, potentially forcing technology giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google as well as other big global businesses to pay taxes to countries based on where their goods or services are sold, regardless of whether they have a physical presence in that nation.
The pact could reshape global commerce and solidify public finances that have been eroded after more than a year of combating the pandemic.
And huge sums of money are at stake. A report this month from the E.U. Tax Observatory estimated that a 15 percent minimum tax would yield an additional 48 billion euros, or $58 billion, a year. The Biden administration projected in its budget last month that the new global minimum tax system could help bring in $500 billion in tax revenue over a decade to the United States.
While the agreement is a major step forward, many challenges remain. Next month, the Group of 7 countries must sell the concept to finance ministers from the broader Group of 20 nations. If that is successful, officials hope that a final deal can be signed in October.
Garnering wider support will not be easy. Ireland, which has a tax rate of 12.5 percent, argues that a global minimum tax would be disruptive to the country’s economic model. Some major countries such as China are considered unlikely to buy in.
And the biggest obstacle come from the United States. The Biden administration must win approval from a narrowly divided Congress to make changes to the tax code.