As the G7 finishes in Cornwall, here are some of the issues they pledged to act on in their Carbis Bay declaration.
The G7 pledged over the next 12 months to secure a further 1bn vaccine doses either through donating surplus supplies or providing further finance to Covax, the UN-backed scheme charged with distributing vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.
The main new pledges came from the US, UK and Germany. The communique also set out plans to reduce roadblocks to production in Africa and on the controversial issue of enforced temporary waivers of patents said they will support manufacturing in low income countries. They said they would engage constructively on the issue of intellectual property waivers in discussions at the World Trade Organization.
The United Kingdom’s 100m-dose pledge is “entirely new”, according to a spokesperson. The United States has already donated $2bn (£1.4bn) to Covax, according to a White House official. In February, the Biden administration pledged $2bn more. But that second $2bn will now fund the purchase of the Pfizer doses, manufactured in the US, along with $1.5bn in additional funds, according to the official.
The communique did not set out a detailed country-by-country commitment or a timetable to act. Many of the commitments were not new. But the EU’s 100m-dose commitment was promised during a summit in May, and the US commitment partially replaces earlier promises to fund Covax directly. The issue of intellectual property waivers was fudged.
The G7 called on China 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”. The G7 underscored “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues”.
They also called for a “timely, transparent, expert-led and science-based” investigation into the causes of Covid, convened by the World Health Organization and including China. The G7 also vowed to cooperate with China on issues such as the climate.
In a separate statement the White House said: “The US and our G7 partners remain deeply concerned by the use of all forms of forced labor in global supply chains, including state-sponsored forced labor of vulnerable groups and minorities and supply chains of the agricultural, solar, and garment sectors – the main supply chains of concern in Xinjiang.”
The sections on China, a change on what the grouping would have said a few years back, do not contain any commitments beyond cooperation to remove forced labour from supply chains.
Containing future pandemics
As well as discussing measures to tackle Covid, G7 leaders said they would “act now to strengthen the global health and health security system to be better prepared for future pandemics”.
They pledged to reinforce global surveillance for potentially dangerous diseases. As well as the joint call for an investigation into the causes of Covid, Joe Biden suggested at his press conference it was time to look again at the theory that it may have originated in a lab.
At his press conference, Boris Johnson suggested the new health surveillance system could involve creating a new global watchdog with powers to carry out inspections to monitor outbreaks, along the lines of existing systems for controlling chemical weapons.
The leaders agreed that in the event of a future outbreak, G7 nations would act rapidly, with the aim of making vaccines, tests and treatments available within 100 days.
The plans were based on recommendations from the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, and Melinda French Gates, who are part of a pandemic preparedness partnership advising the G7 nations.
As well as speeding up the creation of drugs and treatments, the agreement is aimed at preventing the beggar-my-neighbour policies during the early days of the pandemic, when governments were competing to procure personal protective equipment, driving up prices. The leaders committed to a “one health” approach in future.
There was progress towards a global deal that will put a 15% floor under the tax paid by the world’s largest corporations, and in particular tech firms such as Amazon, Google and Facebook. Biden wanted a 21% minimum tax rate, but was persuaded that when countries such as Ireland and Cyprus would need to bring up their tax rates from 12.5%, a 15% rate was more likely to gain widespread agreement. Critics said the G7 had let multinationals off the hook with a rate that failed to prevent tax havens thriving, and could force high-tax countries into a race down to the 15% level.
Leaders of the richest seven nations agreed to repudiate the policies of austerity and retrenchment that were implemented in the years after the 2008 banking crash and, in the words of Johnson, build back better and in a way that makes society more equal and protects the environment. There was strong recognition that economies would benefit from stimulus programmes that were larger and longer lasting than seen in a decade. Only the prime minister of Italy, Mario Draghi, a former central bank governor, cautioned that to calm financial markets leaders should signal that they would one day seek to reduce currently high levels of borrowing.
The G7 also agreed to increase the special drawing rights (SDRs) of low-income countries by $100bn. SDRs are issued by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to boost the reserves and reduce the borrowing costs of vulnerable countries, allowing them to increase spending on health systems and cover pandemic costs. The South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said this fell short of the $162bn he had asked the G7 to agree while anti-poverty groups said the G7 had failed to spell out the terms of the SDRs.