LONDON – Leaders of the world’s seven richest countries have agreed to donate one billion doses of coronavirus vaccine to the poorest countries over the next year and take a tougher line against the China, which President Joe Biden hailed on Sunday as a return of American leadership to the world stage.
At the end of the Group of Seven summit in the English town of Carbis Bay, Biden told a press conference in nearby Newquay that the Covid-19 pandemic would be a “constant project for a long time.”
There was a “clear consensus” among other leaders that their commitments to give vaccine doses would not be the end, he said, adding that the United States would be responsible. about half a billion doses.
Democracies have a duty to “step up and deliver,” he said, adding that the United States may eventually be able to contribute an additional 1 billion doses.
In a separate press conference, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the donations would be both direct transfers of vaccine doses and funding to COVAX, the Organization-backed global vaccine purchasing system. World Health Organization and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, he told a press conference. conference in Cornwall, about 500 miles west of London.
The commitment is well below the 11 billion doses that the WHO says are needed to immunize at least 70 percent of the world’s population.
Other commitments were made on China and climate change and on a plan to force multinational companies to pay their fair share of taxes, according to an end-of-summit statement.
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During his first trip abroad as president, Biden had sought to make the fight against China an important part of the G-7 summit. The United States and the other six countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom – have berated Beijing for cracking down on its Uyghur minority and other rights violations.
The G-7 will continue to challenge “practices that undermine the fair and transparent functioning of the world economy,” the statement said. He also called on “China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially with regard to Xinjiang (…) and the autonomy of Hong Kong”.
As a growing number of scientists take seriously the possibility that the virus responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic has escaped from a Chinese laboratory, the G-7 has called for “timely, transparent and human-led studies. experts’ on the origins of the pandemic in the face of Chinese obstruction.
Biden also told reporters on Sunday that he supported plans to fund “values-based” infrastructure programs for developing countries, which could rival China’s huge Belt and Road initiative.
China, the world’s second-largest economy, is not part of the bloc, and a spokesperson for its embassy in London warned on Sunday that the days when “small” groups of countries decided the fate of the world are long gone.
After strained relations between former President Donald Trump and his Western allies, Biden’s arrival has been greeted by his fellow leaders; British Prime Minister Boris Johnson greeted him on Saturday with a “breath of fresh air”. French President Emmanuel Macron said it was “great to have an American president in the club and very willing to cooperate”.
Biden said on Sunday that there was palpable enthusiasm that “America was back at the table” and could “be counted again” in world affairs.
G-7 leaders also pledged on Sunday to increase their contributions to climate finance to meet an overdue spending pledge of $ 100 billion a year to help the poorest countries reduce their carbon emissions and cope. to global warming.
British naturalist David Attenborough addressed leaders via video earlier today, warning that “today’s natural world is dramatically diminished” as he called for urgent action.
“The decisions we take this decade – especially the decisions taken by the most economically advanced countries – are the most important in human history,” he said.
Some environmental groups said the commitments did not go far enough. Greenpeace UK accused Johnson of producing “old reheated promises” and said he would “take nothing for granted” until countries find the money.
As host of the summit, the UK launched a charm offensive, deploying the royals to meet with world leaders on Friday. But the consequences of his departure from the European Union also hung over the meeting, as Johnson clashed with EU officials over the handling of goods in Northern Ireland after Brexit.
Nonetheless, executives smiled for photos on the beach at a barbecue on Saturday night and watched an aeronautical demonstration by the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows. Biden and his wife, Jill, surprised local residents when they visited a small Catholic church for a Sunday morning service on the coast at the tip of the southwest of England.
Later Sunday, Biden visited Windsor Castle for tea with Queen Elizabeth II.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed.