A vaccine to combat the next global pandemic would be created and approved in just 100 days under a new G-7 plan, which was pitched to leaders by Melinda French Gates and Patrick Vallance, the United Kingdom’s chief scientist.
If that’s too pie-in-the-sky for you, can we tempt you with something more practical? Perhaps the “Build Back Better World: An Affirmative Initiative for Meeting the Tremendous Infrastructure Needs of Low- and Middle-Income Countries” is more to your taste.
The White House is promising this G-7 infrastructure unity will “collectively catalyze hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure investment.” Hey, if you can’t get infrastructure consensus at home — just globalize it!
No Biden-Putin joint press conference next Wednesday? What’s Vlad afraid of, we wonder?
Let’s get into it.
G-7 leaders want a vaccine ready within 100 days of the next pandemic — is their plan credible?
Sue Allan, Canada editor:
Not sure how the first day in the 100 Days Mission would be decided, but it got me thinking: The WHO was tipped to a puzzling virus at the end of December 2019. About 100 days more takes us to that Good Friday press briefing where Donald Trump projected deaths to Covid in the U.S. would be “substantially under” 100,000 people. (To date, 600,000 Americans have died.) Boris Johnson was fresh out of ICU. And here in Canada, the PM was encouraging Canadian families to enjoy Easter weekend on FaceTime. At the time 500 Canadians had died, a number now closing in on 26,000. This sounds like a word problem, but maybe serves as a reminder of all that can happen in 100 days.
Ryan Heath, Global Translations author:
Nearly anything’s credible if it has political will behind it. Moderna’s mRNA vaccine was basically ready to go on January 13, 2020 — a year before it was actually deployed, so there’s room for improvement in trial and approval processes. The leaders also want a Global Pandemic Radar to quickly detect new pandemic risks. These steps have as much, or more, promise than the global pandemic treaty the EU is proposing. While a treaty probably should happen, it would be unenforceable in real time when it matters, so it can only ever be a guardrail. A public expectation of a 100-day vaccine: that’s harder for leaders to ignore.
Anita Kumar, White House correspondent & Associate Editor:
Back in the U.S., Biden has showed Americans that he knows how to meet deadlines when it comes to Covid. There clearly does seem to be some lessons learned on Covid. But some public health officials (and some critics) have argued that Biden is meeting all his goals only because he’s setting the bar too low. This doesn’t seem like that.
How are we feeling about the Build Back Better World plan?
Esther Webber, senior U.K. correspondent:
Ever so slightly nauseous. It’s been Boris Johnson’s slogan for domestic recovery from the pandemic for the past year and I have “build back better” fatigue.
Kumar: Esther, I have “build back better” fatigue too! That’s actually Biden’s campaign slogan and it’s now used on signs and by his aides every single day. And here I thought Biden and Johnson were so different…
Karl Mathiesen, senior climate correspondent:
Say hello to climate-friendly infrastructure: the West’s answer to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has been criticized for its support of carbon-heavy developments and leaving countries stuck in debt. The key word here is “better.” The partners are betting the developing world will prefer to take money from them than Beijing because of something called “values.”
Anna Issac, trade and economics and correspondent:
But there was no announcement of new money to rival the hundreds of billions China has spent around the world. Apparently Prime Minister Boris Johnson didn’t ask for any from the U.K. Treasury, “because they knew the answer would be no,” a Treasury official said.
Heath: A bit like the vaccine donation plan, it’s an essential contribution for democracies to improve their competitive position vis-a-vis authoritarian regimes. If that sounds brutal and transactional, well, that’s what geopolitics is. Just as Biden says that democracies need to show they deliver for their own citizens, in a world where China invests massively in buying access and influence, democracies need to be able to say to countries around the world: “We’re the team to be on, life is better with us and here’s the proof.” Biden and Johnson led the charge on this, but the others are clearly on-board. It will take more than a declaration to catch-up to China though, so the money needs to flow: pronto!
Jakob Hanke, trade correspondent
: The G-7’s share of the world economy is shrinking — but they are still the world’s most advanced economies, and they have a lot to offer to the rest of the world. The best Covid vaccines were developed in G-7 countries — just look at reports on how China’s vaccine efficacy might be as low as 50 percent. Europe and America are also still the biggest investors in Africa. But Beijing has aggressively promoted its Belt and Road infrastructure plan. So part of the G-7’s goal is to come up with a similar offer to finance big infrastructure investments in developing countries.
Anyone getting whiplash today? The bilateral leader meetings see-sawed — some were love-ins, others were snark-fests.
Allan: Observers hoping for bromance or even a bilateral between Trudeau and Biden have so far been disappointed. Ralph Goodale, Canada’s high commissioner to London, advised reporters Friday that there were no plans for an official sit down because the PM and the president talk regularly. “They don’t have to come to Europe to do that.”
But in a pull-aside on Saturday morning, Trudeau and Biden discussed China and ongoing efforts to secure the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, Canadians who have been jailed in China since December 2018. A Trudeau spokesperson tells POLITICO they discussed plans to reopen the Canada-U.S. border, “cautiously and gradually.”
Andy Blatchford, Canada correspondent:
Speaking of Canada and China, a senior Canadian official tells us that Johnson invited Trudeau to lead the group’s discussion on its approach to Beijing given Ottawa’s experience dealing with the sensitive cases of Kovrig and Spavor.
Heath: Who follows politics and doesn’t have whiplash these days? I think the leaders have pretty good shock absorbers — they are where they are because they know how to handle gamesmanship. I’m surprised the Brits let the Brexit fight get this out-of-control, however. You can’t be Global Britain if all you do is have backward-looking fights about Brexit Britain.
David Herszenhorn, chief Brussels correspondent:
Three was a crowd at the trilateral meeting between Boris Johnson and the two EU presidents. An EU official said that their tense meeting was focused “entirely” on the implementation of the Brexit Northern Ireland protocol. David Frost, the British minister in charge of relations with the EU, wore loud Union Jack socks to the meeting — and EU officials got the message. “That was a bit weird,” one senior EU official said. “As if we didn’t know he came from the UK. Thanks for reminding us.”
Kumar: No snarkfests with Biden (yet). Quite the opposite. The leaders are heaping praise on him, at least publicly, even Johnson. But maybe it’s just because he’s not Trump? Just look at what Macron said after the two men met earlier Saturday: “We have to deal with this pandemic, Covid-19 … climate change. For all these issues what we need is cooperation. And I think it’s great to have a U.S. president part of the club, and very willing to cooperate. And I think that what you demonstrate is that leadership is partnership.”
What aren’t the leaders talking about that they should be talking about?
Mathiesen: Climate will be big tomorrow. EU leaders want their G-7 allies to join them in imposing trade barriers on climate laggards — but Japan and the U.S. aren’t so sure. All know they need to address the risk of industries fleeing to countries with weaker regulation, and the EU will push the issue — Brussels is expected to roll out in July a carbon border tariff — even though U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has asked them to back off. Japanese government spokesman Tomoyuki Yoshida said the EU’s plans to tax carbon imports were “one of the quite controversial, heated discussions among the concerned parties.”
Isaac: One of the global economic system’s key umpires, the World Trade Organization, could fail if G-7 leaders don’t start turning words into action at this week’s summit, top businesses fear. This B-7 group of leaders think the WTO is drinking at the “last chance saloon,” Karan Bilimoria, president of the Confederation of British Industry, told me. WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is pressing the case for reform via video from Geneva.
Hanke: Don’t mention patent protections on vaccines! Biden and Macron are in favor of waiving intellectual property protections to allow countries such as India and South Africa to copy coronavirus vaccines, but Johnson and Merkel are still strictly opposed — which means the G-7 is unlikely to back the idea of an IP waiver.
Webber: Aid. Boris Johnson is under huge domestic pressure to reverse a recent cut in the overseas development budget, and his critics had hoped that would be replicated on the international stage. But the PM’s spokesman told reporters this morning it had not been raised in any bilateral talks, and Downing Street must be breathing a small sigh of relief. Perhaps Biden and EU leaders decided sausage wars (as the current row over post-Brexit trade arrangements is now called) was enough beef for one weekend.
Mathiesen: One more climate thought. The U.K. hosts are desperate for this G-7 and their COP26 U.N. conference this November to kill coal power for good. But after days of talks, an agreement on how fast they should phase out coal is eluding the leaders of the most advanced and wealthy nations on Earth. If they can’t do this, how do they expect the rest of the world to?
Special guest correspondents share their thoughts…
Queen of Lols: “Are you supposed to be looking as though you’ve been enjoying yourselves?” Elizabeth II asked grim-faced leaders as they assembled for a family photo.
✨ FLOTUS: “So, I’m Jill, nice to meet you.”
Boris Johnson: “I’ve talked to some of our friends here today who do seem to misunderstand that the U.K. is a single country and a single territory. I think they just need to get that into their heads,” the British P.M. unsubtly told fellow leaders to do their homework before offering Brexit opinions.
Cyril Ramaphosa: “We need vaccines now” the South African president said — failing to mention he refused to use most of the AstraZeneca vaccine doses South Africa received earlier in 2021.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: “It’s clear that going forward as part of preparing for the next pandemic, we must decentralize production,” of vaccines and other medical supplies, the WTO chief urged.
Emmanuel Macron: “What you demonstrate is that leadership is partnership,” to President Biden.
We’ll be back tomorrow morning, with a report on the sea-shanty singing at tonight’s BBQ dinner, a preview of the final session of the G-7, and the inside word on President Biden’s audience with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, set for Sunday afternoon.
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