Meeting in Cornwall, England, the G-7 leaders sought to not just serve up symbolism and pleasant rhetoric but deliver concrete actions to tackle world problems and end the pandemic.
(CN) — In a show of unity, U.S. President Joe Biden and his G-7 allies met Friday at a Cornish seafront holiday resort to lay out a common vision – and concrete steps – for tackling the crises besetting a world riven by a pandemic, warming atmospheric temperatures, radical technological changes and the rise of anti-democratic governments.
The leaders of the wealthiest liberal democracies, meeting at a Group of Seven summit in Cornwall in southwestern England, took their cue from Biden, the new outward-looking occupant of the White House aiming to re-establish U.S. global leadership after the confounding “America First” foreign policy approach of former President Donald Trump.
The G-7 is made up of leading liberal democratic economies in world: the U.S., Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Italy. The European Union also sends representatives. Together, they account for about 45% of global gross domestic product.
But two decades ago, these seven nations accounted for about 65% of global GDP. Today, the size of the economies of France, the U.K., Italy and Canada are being eclipsed by the wealth of China, India, Russia, Indonesia and Brazil. China’s economy is expected to become the world’s largest when it is estimated to surpass that of the U.S. by 2028.
Still, the G-7 can move the levers of world politics and its leaders tried to do just that on Friday by proposing big plans to end the pandemic, help struggling poorer nations, move away from burning fossil fuels, end corporate tax dodging and counter the anti-democratic advances of China and Russia.
The most tangible move by the G-7 was an expected vow to purchase and donate 1 billion vaccine doses for the World Health Organization’s global vaccination campaign in a bid to end the pandemic by next year.
On Thursday, Biden announced the U.S. will provide a half billion doses of Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine.
“American workers will now produce vaccines to save lives of people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean,” Biden said.
“This is a monumental commitment by the American people,” he added. “As I said, we’re a nation full of people who step up at times of need to help our fellow human beings, both at home and abroad. We’re not perfect, but we step up.”
This promise to deliver vaccines can be seen driven not only by humanitarian concerns but geopolitical calculations.
Biden’s push to act globally, and bring allies along, is part of a grander strategy to counter the rise of China, whose growing wealth, influence and military strength are viewed as the primary threat to American power and helping China spread its authoritarian anti-democratic politics around the globe.
China is accumulating goodwill around the globe through vaccine deliveries, cheap development loans, infrastructure investment and a dizzying array of affordable consumer goods and commodities. Biden is hoping to offer a American-led alternative to global development.
During this weeklong trip in Europe, his first trip abroad as president, Biden hopes to rally allies and find strategies to bolster liberal values around the globe. He is meeting with NATO and EU leaders next week before sitting down with Russian President Vladimir Putin at much-anticipated and risky summit in Geneva on Wednesday.
In addition to the vaccine pledge, the G-7 leaders agreed to a global minimum tax rate of at least 15% for multinational companies, a move they hope will close tax havens and end corporate tax dodging.
The White House said making multinational corporations “pay their fair share” will help nations use new tax revenues to invest on infrastructure, childcare, affordable housing and education.
“A global corporate minimum tax is a key part of our efforts to deliver a foreign policy for the middle class, and will help support working families everywhere,” the White House said in a statement.
The G-7 leaders also proposed backing an International Monetary Fund plan to inject $650 billion in cash into the world economy to help poorer countries recover from the coronavirus pandemic without incurring new debts.
Climate change was a top item on the G-7 agenda too. Unlike Trump, Biden has made tackling climate change a top priority, bringing huge relief to European leaders who have made reducing their reliance on fossil fuels a guiding principle. The EU is putting together a comprehensive, legally binding framework to force its economies and societies to reduce carbon emissions in an effort to uphold the 2015 Paris Agreement. The G-7 leaders were expected to make new pledges to make their economies greener.
On Thursday, a day ahead of the summit, Biden and First Lady Jill Biden met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his new wife, Carrie Johnson, in Cornwall.
In a symbolic gesture to confirm the special friendship between the U.S. and the U.K., the two leaders signed an updated Atlantic Charter. This new charter comes 80 years after Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt issued the original Atlantic Charter at the height of World War II and framed their vision for a democratic and free trade world at the end of the war.
The new charter reads like a survival manual for the perils and problems besieging the world in the 21st century.
“We must ensure that democracies – starting with our own – can deliver on solving the critical challenges of our time,” it reads. “We will champion transparency, uphold the rule of law, and support civil society and independent media.”
The document pledges to take on injustice, inequality, human rights violations, the perils of emerging technologies, disinformation, malign influences on elections, government debt, restrictions on navigation and overflight, the need to develop democratic standards for digital technologies, cyber threats and terrorists, the proliferation of weapons, corruption, health crises like the pandemic and low labor and environmental rules.
The new Atlantic Charter also sets out to be a how-to manual for survival on a warming planet.
“We commit to continue building an inclusive, fair, climate-friendly, sustainable, rules-based global economy for the 21st century,” it states. “The world has reached a critical point where it must act urgently and ambitiously to tackle the climate crisis, protect biodiversity, and sustain nature. Our countries will prioritize these issues in all our international action.”
The G-7 meeting will be followed up later this year with a G-20 summit in October in Rome. The G-20 is made up of more countries, including China, Brazil, Russia and Saudi Arabia, and its support or rejection of the ideas offered by the G-7 will be crucial.
Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.