Leaders of some of the world’s biggest economies have promised to intensify co-operation in response to the coronavirus pandemic and to do more to ensure that poorer countries have access to vaccines. The Group of Seven (G7), which comprises the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Japan and Canada, was due to hold its summit in London but the meeting was conducted virtually.
The leaders, whose countries account for almost half the world’s economy, said they would work to strengthen the World Health Organisation (WHO) and support its leading and co-ordinating role in the pandemic.
“We will: accelerate global vaccine development and deployment; work with industry to increase manufacturing capacity, including through voluntary licensing; improve information sharing, such as on sequencing new variants; and promote transparent and responsible practices, and vaccine confidence,” they said.
They pledged more funding for initiatives aimed at improving access throughout the world to vaccines and therapeutics for coronavirus but they did not agree on an approach to sharing stocks of vaccines with poorer countries.
Many of the world’s richest states have ordered far more vaccine shots than their populations will need and Boris Johnson, who chaired the meeting, said they should make sure that every country gets the vaccines they need.
“Science is finally getting the upper hand on Covid. Around the world [we need to] make sure everyone gets the vaccines that they need, so that the whole world can come through this pandemic together,” he said.
“There is no point in us vaccinating our individual populations – we’ve got to make sure the whole world is vaccinated because this is a global pandemic and it’s no use one country being far ahead of another, we’ve got to move together.”
Britain has promised to give most of its surplus vaccines to poorer countries but the government is unwilling to start doing so until most of its own citizens have been vaccinated. French president Emmanuel Macron suggested on Friday that Europe and the United States should immediately start sharing 5 per cent of their vaccine stocks with Africa.
He said that while Russia and China were sharing vaccines with poorer countries and winning diplomatic benefits as a result, western powers appeared to be too focused on securing an overabundance of vaccines for themselves.
“We are allowing the idea to take hold that hundreds of millions of vaccines are being given in rich countries and that we are not starting in poor countries,” he told the Financial Times.
“It’s an unprecedented acceleration of global inequality and it’s politically unsustainable too because it’s paving the way for a war of influence over vaccines,” Mr Macron said. “You can see the Chinese strategy, and the Russian strategy too.”
Friday’s meeting was the first international summit Joe Biden has taken part in since he became president last month and brought the US back into the Paris Agreement on climate change.
In their joint statement after the meeting, the leaders said they would put climate change at the centre of an ambition to make the post-pandemic global economy fairer, more resilient and more sustainable.
“We are committed to levelling up our economies so that no geographic region or person, irrespective of gender or ethnicity, is left behind,” they said.
“We will: champion open economies and societies; promote global economic resilience; harness the digital economy with data free flow with trust; co-operate on a modernised, freer and fairer rules-based multilateral trading system that reflects our values and delivers balanced growth with a reformed World Trade Organisation at its centre; and, strive to reach a consensus-based solution on international taxation by mid-2021 within the framework of the OECD.”