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What have the wealthy democracies agreed on?

Eleven leaders representing more than 2.2 billion people and over half of the world’s economy convened for the Group of Seven summit in Cornwall, UK, from June 11 to 13. This was the first G7 summit since 2019, with the 2020 meeting cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The meeting’s stated purpose was to focus on leading the global recovery from the coronavirus while strengthening resilience against future pandemics, promoting future prosperity by championing free and fair trade, tackling climate change and preserving the planet’s biodiversity, and championing shared values. But, it turned out to be a china-bashing event.
The summit concluded with a diverse set of initiatives, including a pledge to vaccinate poorer countries against the coronavirus, a promise to make large corporations pay their fair share of taxes and a plan to tackle climate change with a blend of technology and money.
Here is a round-up of the Cornwall Summit’s main initiatives:
One billion vaccine doses
The G7 made ambitious promises, such as sharing vaccine doses with less well-off nations that urgently need them. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who held a press conference at the conclusion of the summit, said the group would pledge at least 1 billion doses, with half of that coming from the US and 100 million from Britain.
Many of the promised doses will flow through COVAX, a global vaccine buying system backed by the World Health Organization and Gavi, the vaccine alliance.
The pledge does not represent entirely new resources, and the donation is far short of the number of shots needed to fully vaccinate poorer nations. Moreover, the plan does not address distribution gaps that could make it difficult to deliver doses.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and other public health officials commended the vaccine pledge but said it is not enough. To truly end the pandemic, he said, 11 billion doses are needed to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the world’s population by mid-2022.
‘A transparent investigation’
The G7 also urged China to cooperate with the UN health agency on a “transparent” second-phase probe into the origins of the global coronavirus pandemic.
“We … call for a timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened Phase 2 Covid-19 Origins study including, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China,” the group said in their final statement.
Ramping up action against climate change
Climate change was a key focus of the leaders’ final day of talks with the G7 countries formally backing the ramp-up of collective action to tackle the environmental crisis.
“We commit to … halving our collective emissions over the two decades to 2030, increasing and improving climate finance to 2025 and to conserve or protect at least 30 percent of our land and oceans by 2030,” read the joint communique.
The seven leaders also agreed to raise their contributions to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100bn a year to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming, but campaigners said firm cash promises were missing. Alongside plans billed as helping speed infrastructure funding in developing countries and a shift to renewable and sustainable technology, the world’s seven largest advanced economies again pledged to meet the climate finance target.
However, climate groups said such promises lacked detail. A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said individual nations were expected to set out the size of the increases “in due course”.
A global minimum tax on multinational corporations
The decision had been widely anticipated after finance ministers earlier this month embraced placing a global minimum tax of at least 15 percent on large multinational companies, in an attempt to stop corporations from using tax havens to avoid taxes and thus robbing some countries of much-needed revenue. The proposal will now go to G20 nations meeting in Italy next month.
Russia and cyberattacks
The wealthy nations demanded Russia take action against those conducting cyberattacks and using ransomware, and called for an investigation into the use of chemical weapons on Russian soil. “We call on Russia to urgently investigate and credibly explain the use of a chemical weapon on its soil, to end its systematic crackdown on independent civil society and media, and to identify, disrupt, and hold to account those within its borders who conduct ransomware attacks, abuse virtual currency to launder ransoms, and other cybercrimes,” a communiqué issued after the conclusion of the summit said.
Immediate halt to the war in Ethiopia
The G7 also called for an immediate end to hostilities in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
“We are deeply concerned by the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and reports of an unfolding major humanitarian tragedy,” said the communiqué. “We call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, unimpeded humanitarian access to all areas and the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces.”
Fighting broke out in the region in November between government troops and the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Troops from neighbouring Eritrea also entered the conflict to support the Ethiopian government.
Countering China’s rise
Point 49 of the Communiqué reads:
“We recognise the particular responsibility of the largest countries and economies in upholding the rules-based international system and international law. We commit to play our role in this, working with all partners and as members of the G20, UN and wider international community, and encourage others to do the same. We will do this based on our shared agenda and democratic values. With regard to China, and competition in the global economy, we will continue to consult on collective approaches to challenging non-market policies and practices which undermine the fair and transparent operation of the global economy. In the context of our respective responsibilities in the multilateral system, we will cooperate where it is in our mutual interest on shared global challenges, in particular addressing climate change and biodiversity loss in the context of COP26 and other multilateral discussions. At the same time, and in so doing, we will promote our values, including by calling 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.”
So, a major takeaway from this summit is to challenge China. The Communiqué openly criticized China and mentioned issues related to China’s Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The communiqué also mentioned opposition to “forced labour” and “unilateral attempts to change the status quo” in the East and South China Seas. The US apparently dominated the attitude of its allies. The G7 leaders called “for a timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened Phase 2 Covid-19 Origins study, including, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China,” the communiqué said. Almost every issue on which Washington has recently attacked China has been mentioned in the communiqué. On the other hand, the language of the communiqué was somewhat softer than previous Washington slanders against China.
Build Back a Better World
Included among the projects the leaders agreed was the “Build Back a Better World” initiative, or “B3W,” under US leadership and with G7 support. The point of the project is to provide funding and other assistance to low- and middle-income countries to aid in development and recovery from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
B3W is a key initiative in strategic competition with China, whose Belt and Road Initiative has earned scrutiny for things such as a lack of transparency in dealings and exploitative practices. For example, the Belt and Road Initiative is often criticized for its employment of “debt trap diplomacy,” wherein the Chinese projects become so costly that the host nation must offer other major concessions to China in return.
The B3W initiative offers one of the strongest levers in global politics — the presentation of alternatives. Those alternatives do not always need to win out, but giving countries another choice empowers them in dealings with China.
If implemented as envisioned, the B3W initiative can do three things to shape the Belt and Road Initiative. First, it can diminish China’s ability to exploit weaker nations who lack viable alternatives. After all, if a country has a better option, then it can exercise it.
Second, the presentation of alternatives increases costs for China’s push toward hegemony, since other options equals leverage in negotiations. In other words, even if China is able to win an infrastructure deal or other major project, the price they either pay or demand will be much more reasonable for the value of the goods and services they are promising.
Finally, alternatives push China toward international norms to remain competitive against the other countries that are presenting options. In this case, the Chinese have to play to the level of their competition if they hope to succeed.
Although it will take time to see how the G7’s efforts this year materialize in practice, the return of US leadership in terms of international diplomacy, the inclusion of other like-minded democracies and the commitments that were made during this summit offer a light at the end of the tunnel as the world looks to overcome the ongoing global pandemic.

The writer is a member of staff.

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