G7 hosts multilateralism as weapon against China and Russia

Trade, COVID-19, unequal global access to vaccines and protecting the planet were the key issues at the summit
Los líderes del G7 en Carbis Bay, Cornualles, Gran Bretaña, 13 de junio de 2021 REUTERS/PHIL NOBLE

REUTERS/PHIL NOBLE  -   G7 Leaders at Carbis Bay, Cornwall, Great Britain, 13 June 2021

A vitally important meeting has come to an end, with the leaders of the world's major economies coming face to face after more than two years, at the annual G7 Summit in Cornwall. Among those attending the summit were US President Joe Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. Also, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and the Prime Minister of the host country, Boris Johnson. The European Union (EU) was also represented by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, President of the European Council. Non-member countries invited to this year's meeting include India, South Korea and Australia. 

The G7 summit may bring about a new world economic order marked by the pandemic. The results are already emerging, with leaders discussing actions to address the threat of climate change, trade, and recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, as well as unequal global access to coronavirus vaccines.

El presidente de Estados Unidos, Joe Biden, conversa con el presidente de Francia, Emmanuel Macron AFP/DOUG MILLS
AFP/DOUG MILLS-US President Joe Biden talks with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The summit was held under increasing pressure to agree on immediate and ambitious action from experts, world leaders, civil society organisations and the World Health Organisation (WHO), which was clear in calling on the G7 to commit not only to donate doses to developing countries to advance global immunisation. 

The final commitment, which the seven have reached, is to deliver 1 billion vaccines to developing countries over the next 12 months. The ultimate goal is a total of 2.3 billion vaccines by the end of 2022. In the text, the signatories recall their commitment to "provide a total of more than two billion doses of vaccines" and to "create appropriate frameworks to strengthen collective defence against global health threats". The G7 also endorses the World Health Organisation's initiative for new research into the origins of the pandemic.

El primer ministro canadiense Justin Trudeau  durante una conferencia de prensa en el Castillo de Tregenna después de la Cumbre del G7  THE CANADIAN PRESS/ANDRIAN WYLD
THE CANADIAN PRESS/ANDRIAN WYLD-Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a press conference at Tregenna Castle after the G7 Summit.

The figure seems generous, but, according to the World Health Organisation, it is 10 billion doses less than what is needed to vaccinate 70% of the world. The fine print in the 25-page statement is that this announced 1 billion corresponds to the "dose equivalent" of G7 countries' financial contributions and material donations of vaccines pledged since the last G7 meeting. This means adding to these figures doses already contributed and money already pledged.

The world's seven most developed economies have agreed a "historic" agreement to reform the tax system. Through this pact, large companies such as technology and digital companies will be taxed in the territories where they make their profits. G7 members have committed to at least a 15% minimum corporate tax rate. A measure that still needs the approval of the G20 countries, which include Russia, China, India, and Brazil.

El primer ministro británico, Boris Johnson, habla durante una rueda de prensa al final de la cumbre del G7 en Carbis Bay, Cornualles, Gran Bretaña, el 13 de junio de 2021 REUTERS/BEN STANSALL
REUTERS/BEN STANSALL-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference at the end of the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, Britain, 13 June 2021.

Another of the challenges outlined by the world's most powerful economies has been the fight against climate change. At the meeting to address the environmental problem and the protection of biodiversity. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson presented his idea of a Marshall plan for climate change. The host of the summit spoke about the creation of a Green Development Bank to administer aid to facilitate the ecological transition in developing countries. 

The years of Donald Trump, marked by disagreements and withdrawals from such important international agreements as the Paris Agreement on climate change, are left behind. In this matter, the 7 agreed to veto new direct public funding for projects to generate energy from coal, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, as of next year. Accelerate efforts" to cut pollution so that it remains possible to maintain a global warming cap of 1.5 degrees Celsius. And push ahead with plans to protect at least 30% of the earth's land surface and 30% of the oceans during this decade.

El presidente Joe Biden habla durante una conferencia de prensa después de asistir a la cumbre del G-7,  AP/PATRICK SEMANSKY
AP/PATRICK SEMANSKY-President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference after attending the G-7 summit.

The summit has been dominated not only by the agreements but also by the great controversy between London and Brussels over the new controls to be imposed after the historic Brexit, the so-called "sausage wars" being the latest episode of tension between London and Brussels. The European Union insists that frozen meat cannot be imported from outside the bloc, so Northern Ireland could run out of British meat products. The deadline for the free movement of frozen meat between the UK and Northern Ireland is 30 June. 

At this summit, G7 leaders underlined the need for a common stance to confront global threats, in contrast to the growing unilateralism of recent years and the retreat of global institutions. The withdrawal from Afghanistan, relations with Iran, the future of NATO, the war in Syria and the actions of the military regime are some of the issues on the table at the G7 meeting, with the post-COVID economic recovery and climate change as a backdrop, and with Russia and China as the main protagonists.

El presidente de Francia, Emmanuel Macron, participa en una rueda de prensa durante el último día de la cumbre del G7 en Carbis Bay, Cornualles, el 13 de junio de 2021 AFP/LUDOVIC MARIN
AFP/LUDOVIC MARIN-French President Emmanuel Macron attends a press conference during the final day of the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, 13 June 2021.

Joe Biden wants to mark a turning point in relations with his natural partners, who saw the most critical moments during the mandate of former president Donald Trump. Biden's main objective is to strengthen alliances with European countries in order to form a common front against China and Russia, considered the main enemies of the West according to the United States. 

The G7 has agreed to launch a major infrastructure plan to counter the advance of the Asian giant. This is the Build Back Better for the World initiative, a response to China's One Belt, One Road project, which aims to revitalise the Silk Road by modernising infrastructures and telecommunications to improve connectivity between Asia and Europe. 

After several days of meetings, and at such a turbulent time for international diplomacy, the seven powers nevertheless left the door open to future cooperation and stressed the need for a common stance to confront global challenges, in contrast to the growing unilateralism of recent years.

El presidente chino, Xi Jinping, y su homólogo ruso, Vladímir Putin,  PHOTO/AP
PHOTO/AP-Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin

The G7 leaders reserved their harshest criticism for China and Russia, which they called on to comply with their obligations under national and international law. Two countries with which there are shared interests, but which pose significant security challenges to the global order. 

The US leader had come to the G7 with the aim of rallying support among his Western allies against China and Russia, and in favour of multilateralism and collaboration with the US's traditional allies. Biden explained that he had warned that the measures taken now would determine "whether democracies can compete" with "autocratic" governments like Beijing's in the 21st century.

The summit's conclusions contrast with the final documents of previous summits of the group of the world's most industrialised democracies, which did not even mention the Asian giant. US President Joe Biden has devoted extensive diplomatic efforts to building a stronger opposition to China, which he already sees as a competitor for world hegemony. 

Relations between Russia and the United States have worsened since Joe Biden took office, in contrast to the good relationship with his predecessor, Donald Trump. There are many open fronts between these two countries, the most recent being a cyberattack launched by the criminal organisation DarkSide against Colonial Pipeline, the largest oil pipeline network, which affected the supply of fuel on the east coast of the country for several days. Apart from the ongoing cyber-attacks that the US accuses Moscow of, disagreements over the sovereignty of Ukraine and the Belarusian regime are another major point of contention between the two countries.

One of Biden's goals at the G7 was for the group to adopt a plan of action against cyberattacks, which the US has been the target of in recent months and which have allegedly been launched from Russia. But the summit's final communiqué merely contains an urgent call for Moscow to identify, dismantle and hold to account hackers who perpetrate cyberattacks from its territory.