BRUSSELS - U.S. President Joe Biden has declared that the G-7 summit was an “extraordinarily collaborative and productive meeting” that made progress on fighting the coronavirus pandemic, reviving the global economy and calling out China by name for its bad behavior.
Speaking to reporters Sunday at the end of the gathering in Carbis Bay, England, Biden also praised agreements on tackling corruption, fighting ransomware and ending public finance for coal projects (but with no timeline agreement).
Leaders of the G-7 on Sunday signed the Carbis Bay Declaration, vowing to “end the pandemic and prepare for our futures,” as well as to “reinvigorate our economies” with $12 trillion of support put in place during the pandemic.
Other leaders, including host British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, echoed Biden’s language to “build back better.”
The concluding statement, named for the location of the G-7 Summit in the seaside town of Cornwall, England, recognizes the need to tackle the roots of the pandemic on a global level. The aim is to slash the time needed to respond to a pandemic, including to develop vaccines, to under 100 days.
“There was a clear consensus among all our colleagues at the G-7 that this wasn’t the end,” Biden said of the battle against the coronavirus. “We were going to stay at it until we’re able to provide for the needs of the whole world.”
Heads of Britain, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — a grouping of the world’s wealthiest democracies known as the Group of Seven — were joined in their discussions on global health by leaders of South Korea, South Africa and Australia. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined virtually. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and leaders of other international organizations were also present.
The conference demonstrated to his fellow G-7 leaders and the people of their countries that “America is back at the table,” said Biden, after the four years of the Donald Trump administration. “I think we've made some progress in reestablishing American credibility among our closest friends.”
“The lack of participation in the past and full engagement was noticed significantly not only by leaders of those countries, but by the people in the G-7 countries,” added Biden during a news conference at Cornwall Airport Newquay.
1 billion vaccine doses
G-7 leaders announced one billion doses of vaccines for the world, half of them from the United States. They committed to a series of actions to end the pandemic, and how to prevent a future one, including increasing global manufacturing capacity and improving early warning systems.
The World Health Organization has said as many as 11 billion doses are needed.
“The result of this uninspiring summit will be a prolonged pandemic that costs more lives and livelihoods, not only across the world but in the G-7 countries themselves,” said Tom Hart, acting chief executive officer of the ONE Campaign, a global anti-poverty and health organization.
“I think there's a possibility over 2022, going into 2023 that we would be able to be in a position to provide another billion [doses] from the United States,” said Biden.
Vaccine patent waiver
The G-7 has been under pressure from humanitarian organizations and around 100 World Trade Organization member countries including the United States, to waive intellectual property protections of vaccine technology — the so-called WTO TRIPS waiver. The group, however, opted not to do so. Instead, it will support manufacturing in low-income countries through voluntary licensing and technology transfer to increase the global supply.
“We will engage constructively with discussions” at the World Trade Organization on the role of intellectual property, according to the leaders’ statement.
“This G7 summit will live on in infamy. Faced with the biggest health emergency in a century and a climate catastrophe that is destroying our planet, they have completely failed to meet the challenges of our times,” said Max Lawson, head of Inequality Policy at the Oxfam charity. Johnson and Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel “are insisting on defending the monopolies of pharmaceutical companies over people’s lives, which is completely inexcusable."
G-7 leaders pledged to "explore all options" to ensure that lowest income countries have access to vaccines, including "non-profit production, tiered and transparent pricing" and asking manufacturers to share ten percent of the doses produced with COVAX, the United Nations vaccine-sharing mechanism.
G-7 and China
Biden said he was pleased with the G-7 taking China to task.
The last time the G-7 met there was no mention of China,” noted the U.S. president. “But this time there is mention of China. The G-7 explicitly agreed to call out human rights abuses, and Xinjiang and Hong Kong. China has harshly cracked down on mainly Muslim-minority Uyghurs in Xinjiang and repressed Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement.
The communique says the G-7 “will continue to consult on collective approaches to challenging non-market policies and practices which undermine the fair and transparent operation of the global economy. It also calls on Beijing “to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.”
Biden, at the news conference, said “China has to start to act more responsibly in terms of international norms on human rights, and transparency.”
The group announced a new infrastructure financing mechanism for low- and middle-income countries, called "Build Back Better World," or “B3W,” designed to rival China's Belt and Road Initiative—the global infrastructure development investment strategy central to Beijing’s foreign policy. The scope and source of the financing are still unclear.
On Sunday China hit back, by saying that the days when global decisions were dictated by a "small group" of countries are long gone.
Biden and Putin
American reporters asked Biden several questions about this week’s scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, noting sanctions on Moscow have not changed the Russian leader’s behavior.
“Autocrats have enormous power and they don't have to answer to a public,” responded Biden. “And the fact is that it may very well if I respond in kind, which I will, that it doesn't dissuade him, he wants to keep going.”
Biden said he agreed with Putin’s assessment that relations between their two countries are at a low point.
One area of possible agreement with Russia, however, according to the U.S. president would be mutual extraditions of cyber criminals who have targeted their respective nations — something Putin has said he favors.
Shortcoming on climate action
A failure by the G-7 to agree to firm deadlines for actions to combat climate change is being criticized by environmental organizations.
Johnson rejects that assessment, telling reporters shortly before Biden spoke that much was actually achieved in this arena, adding, “I think it has been a highly productive few days,” noting the nations agreed to raise their contributions to meet an overdue annual spending pledge of $100 billion a year to assist poorer countries in reducing carbon emissions and coping with global warming.
“We had hoped that the leaders of the world’s richest nations would come away from this week having put their money their mouth is,” said Catherine Pettengell, director at Climate Action Network, an umbrella group for advocacy organizations.
Biden on Sunday evening headed to Brussels for two days of meetings in the days ahead with NATO and EU leaders before his much-anticipated talks with Putin on Wednesday in Geneva.