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The leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies are expected to pledge one billion doses of Covid vaccines to poor and middle-income countries on Friday as part of a campaign to “vaccinate the world” by the end of 2022.
The stakes could hardly be higher.
“This is about our responsibility, our humanitarian obligation, to save as many lives as we can,” President Biden said in a speech in England on Thursday evening, before the meeting of the Group of 7 wealthy democracies. “When we see people hurting and suffering anywhere around the world, we seek to help any way we can.”
It is not just a race to save lives, restart economies and lift restrictions that continue to take an immeasurable toll on people around the globe.
Since Mr. Biden landed in Europe for the start of his first presidential trip abroad on Wednesday, he has made it clear that this is a moment when democracies must prove that they can rise to meet the world’s gravest challenges. And they must do so in a way the world can see, as autocrats and strongmen — particularly in Russia and China — promote their systems of governance as superior.
Yet the notion of “vaccine diplomacy” can easily be intertwined with “vaccine nationalism,” which the World Health Organization has warned could ultimately limit the global availability of vaccines.
When Mr. Biden announced on Thursday that the U.S. would donate of 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses, the president said they would be provided with “no strings attached.”
“We’re doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic,” he said. “That’s it. Period.”
But even as wealthy democracies move to step up their efforts, the scale of the challenge is enormous.
Covax, the global vaccine-sharing program, still remains underfunded and billions of doses short.
The International Monetary Fund estimates that it will cost about $50 billion to help the developing world bring the pandemic to an end. In addition to the countless lives saved, the I.M.F. says that such an investment could bring a dramatic return: $9 trillion in increased global economic growth.
While the pandemic is at the center of Friday’s G7 agenda, with the leaders of the nations meeting face to face for the first time since the coronavirus essentially put a stop to handshake diplomacy, a host of other issues are also on the table.
Finance leaders from the G7 agreed last week to back a new global minimum tax rate of at least 15 percent that companies would have to pay regardless of where they locate their headquarters.
Beyond the specific issues, the summit will be a test of how institutions created in another era to help guide the world through crises can stand up to the challenges of today.
On Thursday, Mr. Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain turned to a World War II-era document to provide inspiration for a new generation of challenges, renewing the Atlantic Charter eight decades after it was signed to take into account the threats of today: from cyberattacks to nuclear, climate to public health.
The gathering of the G7 is also, in many ways, a relic of another era. It was created in the 1970s to provide economic solutions after a shock in oil supply triggered a financial crisis.
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said in a preview of the conference on Thursday that the “return of the United States to the global arena” would help strengthen the “rules-based system” and that the leaders of the G7 were “united and determined to protect and to promote our values.”
As the leaders of wealthy Western democracies step up their efforts to provide Covid-19 vaccines to the world, they are also racing to catch up with China’s moves to establish itself as a leader in the fight against the coronavirus.
Last summer, China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, heralded the promise of a Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccine as a global public good. So far, he appears to be making good on that pledge.
China now leads the world in exporting Covid-19 vaccines, cementing its bid to be a major player in global public health. The country’s vaccines have been rolled out to 95 countries, which have received more than 260 million doses, according to Bridge Consulting, a Beijing-based consultancy.
The World Health Organization recently approved the vaccines made by Chinese companies Sinopharm and Sinovac for emergency use, giving Beijing’s reputation a further boost.
So far, China has taken a mainly country-by-country approach in doling out its vaccines. The country has given only 10 million doses to Covax, though it has independently donated 22 million doses and independently sold 742 million doses, according to Bridge Consulting. Many of the donations were made to developing nations in Africa and Asia.
“China is picking countries that could potentially be coming back to China for more things in the future,” said Sara Davies, a professor of international relations specializing in global health diplomacy at Griffith University in Australia. “This is the start of a long-term relationship.”
But there are questions about the Chinese vaccines’ effectiveness, in particular those made by Sinopharm, a state-owned company. Countries that have vaccinated their populations widely with the Sinopharm vaccine such as the Seychelles and Mongolia have had new surges of the coronavirus.
The global rollout has also been dogged by delayed deliveries. China is struggling to manufacture enough doses of its two-shot vaccines to meet the needs of its 1.4 billion people and its customers abroad.
In April, Turkey’s health minister said that one reason for the country’s slow vaccination campaign was that Sinovac, a Chinese vaccine maker, did not comply with a promised delivery schedule.
“This is not because of lack of production, but it is because Chinese government is using the vaccines for its own country,” the minister, Fahrettin Koca, was quoted in the Turkish press as saying.
In a regular news briefing on Thursday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman urged the United States to act quickly on its pledge to donate 500 million Covid-19 vaccine doses. The spokesman, Wang Wenbin, criticized Washington for initially wanting to keep the doses for people in the United States.
Mr. Wang called on countries undertaking vaccine research and development to “assume their responsibility” and support Covax, the global alliance backed by the World Health Organization to ensure that developing countries get access to affordable vaccines.
“As we all know, until recently, the U.S. has been stressing that its top priority with vaccines is its domestic rollout,” Mr. Wang said. “Now that it has announced donation to Covax, we hope it will honor its commitment as soon as possible.”
Alexandra Stevenson contributed reporting, and Elsie Chen contributed research.
FALMOUTH, England — It’s no diaper-clad Donald J. Trump, but this year’s Group of 7 meeting has its own inflatable gag: a floating blimp that caricatures President Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, holding hands and waving, each wearing swim trunks in the design of their national flags.
A group of advocacy groups behind the blimp took reporters and photographers out on a morning cruise on Friday in the mist and drizzle — known in Cornwall as “mizzle” — to see its formal launch off the coast of a Cornish port where the world’s news media is encamped to cover the summit.
While the press bobbed in the waves, taking photos of Biden and Boris against the backdrop of a mist-shrouded castle, representatives of the groups explained their dead-serious agenda for world leaders. They urged them to speed up donations of coronavirus vaccines, enact tougher measures to curb climate change and at last tackle income and gender inequality.
As they spoke, a few rays of sunshine poked through the fog. That prompted jokey references to hopes that “the mist would lift” from the leaders as the activists did their best to entertain their rain-spattered guests.
“We try to organize optimism to have impact,” said Jamie Drummond, who founded the advocacy group One with Bono, the leader singer of U2. “But there are many reasons to be very angry as well. Not enough is being done.”
Mustering anger is not easy when Covid restrictions make it impossible to gather crowds of protesters, security cordons keep them 25 miles from where the leaders are staying, and one of the antagonists at such gatherings, Mr. Trump, has been replaced by the more emollient Mr. Biden.
When the Trump baby balloon first took flight in July 2018 in London, during a visit by the president, the police estimated that more than 100,000 demonstrators were on hand. The Biden-Boris blimp will float in Falmouth’s harbor, where it can be viewed by the press and the scattered tourists left in an otherwise locked-down port.
Mr. Drummond insisted that a new United States president had not taken the wind out of the advocacy efforts. There was no in-person Group of 7 last year because of the pandemic, he said, and the combination of a health and climate crisis lend this gathering as much urgency as any previous summit.
“There are hard facts and data — about Covid, about climate, about ecology and about injustice — which are not being paid attention to,” Mr. Drummond said. “And the response from leaders is not commensurate with these crises.”
Still, the image of Mr. Biden and Mr. Johnson waving jauntily to those on shore felt less like a cry for help than a reminder of the extravagant display of unity by the two leaders when they first met the previous day.
The advocacy groups will strike a more somber note on Friday evening, when they plan to hold two vigils, in Falmouth and Carbis Bay, to honor the estimated 3.7 million people who have died of Covid worldwide.
Few images captured the rupture in trans-Atlantic relations better than that of President Donald J. Trump in 2018, arms folded across his chest as he resisted Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and other Group of 7 leaders in their doomed effort to salvage their summit meeting in Canada.
As the same countries’ leaders reconvene in Cornwall, England, on Friday, President Biden is aiming reverse the body language, replacing impasse with embrace. But beneath the imagery, it is not clear how much more open the United States will be to give-and-take with Europe than it was under Mr. Trump.
The trans-Atlantic partnership has always been less reciprocal than its champions like to pretend — a marriage in which one partner, the United States, carried the nuclear umbrella. Now, with China replacing the Soviet Union as America’s archrival, the two sides are less united than they were during the Cold War, a geopolitical shift that lays bare longstanding stresses.
So a lingering question looms over Friday’s G7 summit in England: Will this show of solidarity be more than a diplomatic pantomime — reassuring to Europeans traumatized by Mr. Trump’s “America First” policy but bound to disappoint them when they realize that the United States under Mr. Biden is still going its own way?
“America’s foreign policy hasn’t fundamentally changed,” said Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the British Parliament. “It’s more cooperative and inclusive, but substantially it’s the same.”
More than two centuries after his ancestor was cast out of Cornwall for stealing and sent to Australia with hundreds of other convicts, Scott Morrison returned to the area on Friday as prime minister of Australia.
“It’s a long time since one of my family was in Cornwall,” Mr. Morrison said in a speech in Perth on Wednesday before traveling to meet with other world leaders at the Group of 7 conference.
While the issues of the day were at the center of his agenda as an invited guest at the summit, it was also an unusual homecoming of sorts.
The main location of the gathering, Carbis Bay, is about 60 miles from the market in Launceston where his ancestor, William Roberts, stole “five pound and a half-weight of yarn” in 1786, according to the Australian Associated Press.
Mr. Morrison said Mr. Roberts was his “fifth great-grandfather.”
“He stole some yarn in Cornwall, and the rest is history,” Mr. Morrison said. “More than 200 years of it, so it’ll be interesting to be going back there.”
Mr. Roberts was part of a group of over 1,400 people who set sail in 11 ships from Portsmouth, England on May 13, 1787 — part of the infamous “First Fleet” — transporting military leaders, sailors and convicts across the world.
“A wide variety of people made up this legendary ‘First Fleet,’” according to the National Geographic Society. “Military and government officials, along with their wives and children, led the group. Sailors, cooks, masons and other workers hoped to establish new lives in the new colony.”
The First Fleet included more than 700 convicts — the start of what would be more than 80 years of Britain’s shipping off convicts to serve out their sentences in New South Wales, now a state in southeastern Australia. Britain sent more than 160,000 convicts to Australia in that time, and it is estimated that about 20 percent of present-day Australians can trace their ancestry to them.
Mr. Morrison is not the first Australian leader to trace his roots back to a convict.
Genealogists traced former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s family line to an English woman who barely escaped the hangman’s noose. In 1788, Mary Wade — Mr. Rudd’s paternal fifth-great-grandmother — was convicted at the Old Bailey in London of having robbed an 8-year-old girl of her dress and underwear in a bathroom.
Ms. Wade is said to have declared at her trial: “I was in a good mind to have chucked her down” the toilet. “I wish I had done so.”
She was sentenced “to be hanged by the neck til she be dead,” but her sentence was commuted and she was shipped off to Australia.
When the top economic officials from the world’s advanced economies, in the days leading up to the Group of 7 summit, unveiled a broad agreement that aims to stop large multinational companies from seeking out tax havens and force them to pay more of their income to governments, it was a breakthrough in a yearslong efforts to overhaul international tax laws.
A new global minimum tax rate at least 15 percent, which finance leaders from the Group of 7 countries agreed to back, would apply to companies regardless of where they locate their headquarters.
The agreement would also impose an additional tax on some of the largest multinational companies, potentially forcing technology giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google as well as other big global businesses to pay taxes to countries based on where their goods or services are sold, regardless of whether they have a physical presence in that nation.
The pact could reshape global commerce and solidify public finances that have been eroded after more than a year of combating the pandemic.
And huge sums of money are at stake. A report this month from the E.U. Tax Observatory estimated that a 15 percent minimum tax would yield an additional 48 billion euros, or $58 billion, a year. The Biden administration projected in its budget last month that the new global minimum tax system could help bring in $500 billion in tax revenue over a decade to the United States.
While the agreement is a major step forward, many challenges remain. Next month, the Group of 7 countries must sell the concept to finance ministers from the broader Group of 20 nations. If that is successful, officials hope that a final deal can be signed in October.
Garnering wider support will not be easy. Ireland, which has a tax rate of 12.5 percent, argues that a global minimum tax would be disruptive to the country’s economic model. Some major countries such as China are considered unlikely to buy in.
And the biggest obstacle come from the United States. The Biden administration must win approval from a narrowly divided Congress to make changes to the tax code.
A sculpture recreating the faces of Group of 7 leaders in a metallic tangle of circuit boards, laptop covers and cast-off cellphone pieces stands in stark contrast to the idyllic Cornish beach they overlook on the southwestern English coast.
The installation — a garbage homage to Mount Rushmore’s carved granite heads that was erected this week before the gathering nearby of the heads of state it depicts — is intended to highlight the environmental damage caused by the disposal of electronic waste.
Discussions around climate change are on the agenda, and environmental activists staged demonstrations across Britain in the lead up to the event to call for urgent and drastic change.
The art installation, dubbed “Mount Recylemore” by its creators, depicts Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, and President Biden. It stands on Sandy Acres in Cornwall near Carbis Bay, where the summit is being held starting on Friday.
According to musicMagpie, an online retailer that resells electronics and was involved in the project, the installation was intended to “highlight the growing threat e-waste poses to the environment and the importance of taking action now.”
Joe Rush, an artist and founder of the Mutoid Waste Company that stages industrial performance art, and Alex Wreckage, a sculptor, collaborated with the company on the art installation, which is made up of 12 tons of scrap metal and electronic waste materials from computers, phones and other technology.
For three days, beginning Friday, some of the world’s most powerful leaders are descending on a small Cornish village for a series of meetings as part of the Group of 7 summit, which brings together the heads of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
So what exactly is the G7, and why does it matter?
The nations belonging to the club are the world’s wealthiest large democracies, close allies and major trading partners that account for about half of the global economy.
With broadly similar views on trade, political pluralism, security and human rights, they can — when they agree — wield enormous collective influence. Their heads of government meet, along with representatives of the European Union, to discuss economic issues and major international policies.
Those attending this years’ gathering include leaders from the G7 member countries — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — plus the European Union, guests Australia, South Africa and South Korea, along with India via video link.
The group, whose origins go back to the 1973 oil crisis, grew out of an informal gathering of finance ministers from Britain, the United States, France, Japan and what was then West Germany — initially known as the Big Five — as they tried to agree on a way forward.
Since the 1970s, the group and its later additional members have met dozens of times to work on major global issues that affect the international economy, security, trade, equality and climate change. In 2015, the summit paved the way for the Paris agreement to limit global emissions, which was decided later that year.
For a time, the group had eight members — remember the G8? — but Russia, always something of an outlier, was kicked out in 2014 amid international condemnation of President Vladimir V. Putin’s annexation of Crimea. Last year, President Donald J. Trump said he believed Russia should be reinstated.
Atop the agenda this year will be the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the global economy, with a focus on worldwide recovery and vaccination.
This summit, hosted by Britain, which currently holds the group’s presidency, is the 47th of its kind and will continue through Sunday. Last year’s summit was canceled because of the pandemic, making this gathering the first in-person G7 Leaders’ Summit in almost two years. The last was in August 2019 in Biarritz, France.
Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Doug Mills/The New York Times
Jesco Denzel/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
President Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain signed a new version of the 80-year-old Atlantic Charter on Thursday, using their first meeting to redefine the Western alliance and accentuate what they said was a growing divide between battered democracies and their autocratic rivals, led by Russia and China.
The two leaders unveiled the new charter as they sought to focus the world’s attention on emerging threats from cyber attacks, the Covid-19 pandemic that has upended the global economy, and climate change, using language about reinforcing NATO and international institutions that Mr. Biden hoped would make clear that the Trump era of America First was over.
The new charter, a 604-word declaration, was an effort to stake out a grand vision for global relationships in the 21st century, just as the original, first drafted by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, was a declaration of a Western commitment to democracy and territorial integrity just months before the United States entered World War II.
“It was a statement of first principles, a promise that the United Kingdom and the United States would meet the challenges of their age and that we’d meet it together,” Mr. Biden said after his private meeting with Mr. Johnson. “Today, we build on that commitment, with a revitalized Atlantic Charter, updated to reaffirm that promise while speaking directly to the key challenges of this century.”
The most pressing, vexing item on President Biden’s agenda while in Europe may be managing the United States’ relationship with a disruptive Russia. He will seek support from allies to that end, but no part of the trip promises to be more fraught than the daylong meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin on June 16.
On the eve of meeting with European leaders rattled by Russia’s aggressive movement of troops along Ukraine’s borders, Mr. Biden said the world was at “an inflection point,” with democratic nations needing to stand together to combat a rising tide of autocracies.
“We have to discredit those who believe that the age of democracy is over, as some of our fellow nations believe,” he said.
Turning to Russia specifically, he pledged to “respond in a robust and meaningful way” to what he called “harmful activities” conducted by Mr. Putin.
Russian intelligence agencies have interfered in Western elections and are widely believed to have used chemical weapons against perceived enemies on Western soil and in Russia. Russian hackers have been blamed for cyberattacks that have damaged Western economies and government agencies. Russian forces are supporting international pariahs in bloody conflicts — separatists in Ukraine and Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria.
Mr. Biden called for the meeting with Mr. Putin despite warnings from rights activists that doing so would strengthen and embolden the Russian leader, who recently said that a “new Cold War” was underway.
Mr. Putin has a powerful military and boasts of exotic new weapons systems, but experts on the dynamics between Washington and Moscow say that disruption is his true power.
“Putin doesn’t necessarily want a more stable or predictable relationship,” said Alexander Vershbow, who was United States ambassador to Russia under President George W. Bush. “The best case one can hope for is that the two leaders will argue about a lot of things but continue the dialogue.”
White House officials say that Mr. Biden has no intention of trying to reset the relationship with Russia. Having concurred with the description of Mr. Putin as a “killer” in March, Mr. Biden is cleareyed, they say, about his adversary: He regards him more as a hardened mafia boss than a national leader.
At nearly the same time Mr. Biden was delivering his remarks on Wednesday, a Russian court outlawed the organization of the jailed opposition leader Alexei A. Navalny, potentially exposing him and his supporters to criminal charges.
But Mr. Biden is more focused on Russian actions abroad than its domestic repression. He is determined to put what his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, calls “guardrails” on the relationship. That includes seeking out some measure of cooperation, starting with the future of the countries’ nuclear arsenals.
Mr. Biden’s associates say he will also convey that he has seen Mr. Putin’s bravado before and that it doesn’t faze him.
“Joe Biden is not Donald Trump,” said Thomas E. Donilon, who served as national security adviser to President Barack Obama and whose wife and brother are key aides to Mr. Biden. “You’re not going to have this inexplicable reluctance of a U.S. president to criticize a Russian president who is leading a country that is actively hostile to the United States in so many areas. You won’t have that.”