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LONDON – For the first time in nearly two years, leaders from seven of the world’s richest democracies will come together to try to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges, including post-pandemic recovery, climate change and China’s challenge. The three-day Group of 7 meeting, hosted by the UK, will open on Friday in Carbis Bay, a seaside resort town in Cornwall in the south-west of England.
President Biden, who arrived in the UK on his first overseas trip since taking office on Wednesday, has big goals: to restore US global leadership and mend old friendships over the years. Trump.
During his time in the White House, former President Donald Trump criticized the Democratic allies of the United States – “the European Union is an enemy”, he asserted – and sometimes praised his authoritarian rivals, including Russia, which was kicked out of what was then the G8 in 2014 for annexing Crimea.
In Cornwall, Biden will take a completely different tone.
“I know the past few years have strained and tested our transatlantic relationship, but the United States is determined, determined to re-engage with Europe,” Biden said. mentionned in February, at the Munich Security Conference.
Polls show that Biden’s rhetoric and political changes, such as joining the Paris Climate Agreement, have bolstered America’s image in parts of Europe. A Morning Consult poll last month showed that attitudes towards the United States in Germany, France and the UK have rebounded since the Jan.6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. But many Europeans remain skeptical of a US political system they once trusted, with majorities in Germany, Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands telling pollsters in April that it was either completely or somewhat broken.
European analysts say Biden must now make substantial deals with the G7 countries if he hopes to persuade the leaders that, as he put it, “America is back.”
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“We’re starting to ask ourselves questions like ‘it’s fine that we love each other so much, but what are we really capable of doing together?’, Explains Nathalie Tocci, director of the Italian Institute of International Affairs in Rome and special adviser to the EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell. “It’s going to be important in the context of the G7 that there is an agreement on something.”
G7 finance ministers agreed earlier this month on a global minimum corporate tax of at least 15%, which critics say is too low. But this weekend, they will also set their sights on the pandemic, which is in its second year.
Earlier this week, UNICEF urged members of the G7 – the United States, Britain, France, Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan – to send 20% of their doses of vaccines to the poorest countries in August or risk wasting them. The gap in immunization rates between many rich and poor countries is staggering. The UK claims to have fully vaccinated over 41% of its population, while Nepal reports a vaccination rate of around 2.5%.
President Biden is expected to announce Thursday that the United States has purchased 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to donate to COVAX, which distributes vaccines to countries that cannot afford enough vaccine.
Britain says it intends to send doses overseas, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last week that immunizing children at home was still the priority.
Rob Yates, who heads the Center for Universal Health at Chatham House, London’s political institute, says G7 countries must share more vaccines with developing countries, help fund more factories for vaccine production and encourage pharmaceutical companies to share their technological know-how to help countries in need.
“If the G7 is to be serious about global leadership, we need to take a holistic perspective of humanity and truly value the lives of people in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa like ours,” Yates said. “It’s going to take a huge effort.”
If the G7 does not step up, he warns, the developing world will become “infuriated” and look to other countries for vaccines, like Russia and China, the West’s authoritarian rivals.
The G7 has already made progress on another big issue: climate change. Last month, environment ministers agreed on climate targets to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – more ambitious than the previous 2-degree cap.
“This is really a big deal,” says Samantha Gross, who heads the Energy Security and Climate Initiative at the Brookings Institution.
Advances in technology have reduced the costs of wind, solar power and batteries, she says, making the goal of lower temperatures possible and making it easier to remove more carbon from the power generation process. More action at the G7 this weekend could provide momentum for change at two more global meetings this fall, she said: the G20 – the 20 countries that produce the vast majority of global GDP – which will meet in Rome in October, and the United States United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November.
“If the whole G20 got involved, you would cover the vast majority of global emissions,” Gross said.
The G7 is a magnet for protests, and this year will be no different. Sculptor Joe Rush built a replica of Mount Rushmore in a location visible from the G7 site, in which he renders the faces of G7 leaders – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Biden – with electronic waste including keyboards and hard drives. Rush calls it “Mount Recyclemore” and wants to highlight the damage society is doing by getting rid of electronic devices.
Extinction Rebellion, a global environmental movement that started in a Cotswold town in England, plans to hold marches to expose what it sees as the hypocrisy of commitments by rich countries and corporations to cut greenhouse gases. tight. British farmers are also planning to take to the streets to protest a free trade deal with Australia which they say will result in an influx of cheap food imports.
Another topic of discussion expected at this weekend’s summit is cybersecurity. In the past month alone, cybercriminals have staged disruptive “ransomware” attacks against the world’s largest meat-packing company and America’s largest fuel pipeline. Christopher Painter, who was America’s top cyber diplomat at the State Department, said G7 countries must impose heavier political and economic costs on nations that allow hackers to launch attacks from inside their homes. borders.
“Countries can work together to use all their tools to try to pressure countries like Russia, either when Russia itself is doing it as a state-sponsored activity or when Russia is harboring these cybercriminals. “, did he declare.
The other big problem in Cornwall will be China, which has posed the West’s biggest challenge for decades.
President Biden needs partners to help confront Beijing on everything from unfair trade practices and intellectual property rights to the country’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea and threats to Taiwan.
Supported by the world’s second-largest economy, Communist Party of China General Secretary Xi Jinping argues that Beijing’s authoritarian model is an effective alternative to liberal democratic systems. Biden called it an “inflection point” for democracy. The European Union has cooled down to China in recent months, but shows no interest in joining the United States in an anti-China bloc.
Critics complain that G7 meetings are long in statements, which are often quickly forgotten, and little collective action. But this time, with a once-in-a-century pandemic and an increasingly narrow window to tackle climate change, there may be more pressure to act.