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G7 pledges to rival China's 'debt diplomacy'

June 12, 2021

On the second day of the G7 summit, world leaders said they will pledge money to rival China's Belt and Road initiative, Beijing's infrastructure investment policy that some US officials have called "debt diplomacy."

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Leaders, including the UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel are meeting for a second day of G7 talksImage: Stefan Rousseau/picture alliance/dpa
  • Saturday marked the second of the three-day event, hosted by the UK in Cornwall
  • G7 leaders signed a declaration to try and prevent future pandemics
  • They unveiled an infrastructure plan to compete with China's Belt and Road Initiative
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held sideline talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron

These live updates are now closed. Click here to read further about how the G7 plans to be more competitive towards China. Our coverage of the G7 summit will continue on Sunday morning.

G7 eyes rival to China's Belt and Road project

G7 leaders have said they will pledge money to support poorer countries in building better infrastructure in a direct challenge to Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

BRI has helped pay for improving transport links and hubs in Europe and Africa, but critics say it simply saddles those countries who ask for loans from China with too much debt.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks with U.S. President Joe Biden earlier in Cornwall.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel held talks with U.S. President Joe Biden earlier in Cornwall.Image: Guido Bergmann/Bundesregierung/REUTERS

A G7 statement said it was planning a "values-driven, high-standard and transparent" partnership after US President Joe Biden urged governments to take a tougher line on the Chinese leadership.

However, the communique was scant on details about such a partnership would be financed. 

China's Gateway to Europe - The New Silk Road

WHO wants more on vaccine sharing

The head of the World Health Organization has welcomed the vaccine-sharing announcements coming out of the Group of Seven summit, but emphasized: "we need more, and we need them faster."

"The challenge, I said to the G7 leaders, was that to truly end the pandemic, our goal must be to vaccinate at least 70% of the world's population by the time the G7 meets again in Germany next year, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
The WHO chief urged richer countries to do more to help poorer countries access coronavirus vaccines.Image: Zhang Cheng/imago images

"To do that, we need 11 billion doses," Tedros said, adding that it was "essential" for countries to temporarily waive intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the summit's host, has said the group would pledge at least 1 billion doses, with half that number coming from the United States and 100 million from Britain over the next year.

Tedros reiterated his target of vaccinating 30% of the population of every country by the end of 2021. He said that reaching the goal requires 100 million doses in June and July, and 250 million more by September.

Protesters demonstrate outside G7 media hall

Demonstrations are regularly held close to G7 summits by groups or activists urging leaders to focus more closely on key policy issues, such as climate change.

But organizers have put a security barrier around the main meeting venue in Cornwall, meaning the protesters can get nowhere near the heads of state and government. 

Extinction Rebellion held a demonstration close to the area where the world's media are covering the event.

Merkel calls to share 2.3 billion vaccines with poorer nations

The German chancellor called on G7 nations to share as many as 2.3 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines with developing countries by 2022.

Merkel's call comes one day after US President Joe Biden pledged 500 million doses to help the world's poor.

She also warned that the G7 would not be able to immediately release funds for a US infrastructure to plan to rival China's Belt and Road initiative that sees Beijing invest in large public and private projects abroad.

Merkel and Biden are also set to discuss Nord Stream 2, a controversial gas pipeline to deliver Russian gas to Europe.

"There will certainly be further discussions and talks about Nord Stream 2 with America," Merkel told reporters after a summit of EU leaders.

WTO urges quick vaccine IP deal

WTO Chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
The head of the WTO says global leaders should look to agree a deal on waiving IP for coronavirus vaccines this summer.Image: Denis Balibouse/KEYSTONE/picture alliance

The new head of the World Trade Organization urged G7 leaders to press for a quick deal on sharing the intellectual property of COVID-19 vaccines with producers in developing countries.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, speaking to reporters before joining discussions among leaders of the Group of Seven nations, said she was hopeful there would be more clarity onthe IP waiver issue by July.

"It may be difficult because some of the positions, maybe, are a little bit far apart, but there is a pathway," she said. "I would very much like to see some form of progress by July."

Merkel seeks 'pragmatic solution' in Brexit row

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU and the UK should seek a"pragmatic solution" to the disagreements over part of the Brexit deal that covers border issues with Northern Ireland.

But Merkel, who is attending her last G7 before stepping down as leader, said the EU would still defend its single market.

Macron says America is back 

French President Emmanuel Macron has welcomed the return of the United States to the global diplomatic fray after the election of Joe Biden.

"It is great to have a US president who’s part of the club and very willing to cooperate," Macron said after meeting Biden. "What you demonstrate is that leadership is partnership."

UN chief lands in Cornwall

Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, is attending the meeting for key talks on climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

On climate, the former Portuguese prime minister said on Friday that the world is heading towards "a point of no return" unless governments took action.

EU hits back at British PM Johnson

EU diplomats have briefed that the bloc's two presidents, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the head of the European Council, told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stick to the commitments made in the agreement struck last year.

One senior official said both leaders underlined that "the rhetoric needs to be toned down."

"We need to actively look for the solutions which are in the Protocol," the source said.

UK suggests suspending key part of Brexit deal.

In an interview with the British broadcaster Sky News, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK could decide to suspend part of the trade deal struck with Brussels last year that governs the import of goods into Northern Ireland.

Johnson said checks on food and agricultural products could endanger the territorial integrity of the UK.

He added that he would "not hesitate to invoke Article 16" of the Northern Ireland protocol, which would suspend its application.

"We need to sort it out," Johnson said. "I think we can sort it out. But it's up to our EU friends and partners to understand that we will do whatever it takes and there is some misunderstanding."

The prime minister's official spokesman said the British premier wanted to find "radical changes and pragmatic solutions."

"We keep all options on the table," he said.

First Lady Jill Biden, Duchess of Cambridge urge early years learning rethink

US First Lady Jill Biden and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge have called for a "fundamental shift" in early years education and care, after meeting on the sidelines of the G7 summit in England.

The two women met for the first time Friday at a school in Cornwall, southwestern England, where they visited 4 and 5-year-olds and spoke with experts on early childhood development.

School and career success, along with good mental and physical health, are linked to positive early years nurturing, they stressed in the article published by U.S. media outlet CNN.

They said business leaders, among others, should give more support to the parents and caregivers in their workforces.

"If we want strong economies and strong societies, we need to make sure that those raising and caring for children get the support they need,'' they said.

Several talks taking place on the sidelines of the G7

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met the bloc's leaders on the sidelines of the summit, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, as post-Brexit turbulence strains relations between Britain and the EU.

The EU and UK are locked in an escalating diplomatic row over Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK that has a land border with the bloc.

The EU is angry at the British delay in implementing new checks on some goods coming into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK required under the terms of Britain's divorce from the bloc.

Britain says the checks are imposing a big burden on businesses and destabilizing Northern Ireland's hard-won peace.

Von der Leyen tweeted after meeting Johnson that Northern Ireland peace was "paramount," and the binding Brexit agreement protected it.

"We want the best possible relations with the UK. Both sides must implement what we agreed on. There is complete EU unity on this," she said.

Johnson also held meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

In addition to the ongoing Brexit row, Merkel and Johnson discussed a number of foreign policy issues, including China and what the UK government termed Russia's "destabilizing activities."

French President Emmanuel Macron (l) sits in a gray chair facing UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (r)
The UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with several EU leaders for talks about an ongoing Brexit rowImage: Stefan Rousseau/picture alliance/dpa

G7 to announce rival to China's Belt and Road Initiative

During the summit, the G7 is expected to launch a new global infrastructure plan to counter China's massive Belt and Road Initiative, according to senior US officials.

"We'll be announcing ‘build back better for the world,' an ambitious new global infrastructure initiative with our G7 partners that won't just be an alternative to the B and I [Belt and Road]," an official was quoted as saying by news agency Reuters.

China's Belt and Road Initiative is a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure project launched in 2013 with the aim of boosting trade links with dozens of countries from Asia to Europe.

Critics of the initiative say that Chinese lending for Belt and Road projects could entice developing nations into taking on massive, unsustainable debt, thereby making them vulnerable to influence by Beijing.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden also hopes to bolster cooperation in confronting China's alleged forced labor practices including against the Uyghur Muslim minority.

"This is not just about confronting or taking on China," a senior White House official said, adding: "This is about providing an affirmative, positive alternative vision for the world."

G7 leaders to try and stop future pandemics

Group of Seven (G7) leaders are set to sign up for the Carbis Bay Declaration aimed at taking steps to prevent another health emergency, similar to the coronavirus pandemic.

The heads of seven leading economies — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — are in Cornwall in the UK for the second of three days of talks.

By signing the declaration on health, G7 leaders will commit to using all their resources to prevent a global pandemic from ever happening again, according to a statement released by the UK government on Saturday.

The declaration is set to lay out "concrete commitments to prevent any repeat of the human and economic devastation wreaked by coronavirus," the statement adds.

The steps include cutting down the time it takes to develop and license vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for any future disease to under 100 days. It will also reinforce global surveillance networks.

The declaration —named after the seaside town in Cornwall, southwest England where leaders are meeting — will be formally published on Sunday, alongside the G7's final communique.

The respiratory virus has caused millions of deaths since the outbreak was first reported in China in late 2019. It forced economies worldwide into recessions as a result of strict measures on businesses and trade imposed by governments in a bid to stem the spread of the outbreak.

jf,kmm/aw (Reuters, AFP) 

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