President Joe Biden took part in a virtual meeting with G7 leaders on Friday for the first time to discuss plans to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, rebuild the global economy and counter the Chinese threat.
The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed 2.4 million lives, plunged the global economy into the worst peacetime recession since the Great Depression, and altered the way billions lived.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday that Biden will “focus on the global response to the pandemic, including vaccine production and distribution,” as well as other infections. The US President “will also discuss the global recovery, including the importance of governments in all industrialized countries maintaining support for economic recovery,” and “the importance of renewing global roles to address economic challenges such as those created by China.” said Psaki.
The videoconference with the G7 leaders, which began at 9:00 a.m. US East Coast time, was a chance for Biden to send the world a message that the US is resuming its engagement with the rest of the world and global institutions after four years of work by his predecessor, Donald Trump, who conducted the America First Policy.
In addition to Biden, the meeting is also attended for the first time by the new Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who previously served as president of the European Central Bank and “did his best” to save the euro during the European debt crisis.
Britain, which now chairs the G7, has asked its G7 colleagues to accelerate the development of future vaccines in the next 100 days. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking to mend relations with Biden, who at one time did not support Brexit and warned the UK last year against breaking the peace in Ireland.
Johnson expressed interest in signing a global treaty on pandemics to ensure transparency of these processes after the Chinese authorities tried to hide information from the world at the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The White House said Thursday that the Biden administration will set aside $ 4 billion for a coronavirus vaccination program for poorer countries, adding that the US hopes other governments will also donate large funds to the program.
The UK, which has pledged £ 548 million ($ 766 million) to the COVAX program led by the World Health Organization, will ask other G7 partners to participate in the initiative.
China is also on the agenda. In his first major foreign policy speech as president, Biden called China the United States’ most serious competitor.
“We will confront China’s economic abuse; oppose his aggressive coercive actions; fend off China’s attacks on human rights, intellectual property and global governance, ”Biden said on February 4.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the United States will keep tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on Chinese goods at the same level for now, but will begin a thorough review of those tariffs to determine next steps.
The G7 countries, which include the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada, have a combined gross domestic product of about $ 40 trillion – just under half the global economy.