G-7 leaders agree on vaccines, China and taxing corporations

CARBIS BAY, England (AP) — The leaders of the world’s richest countries have pledged more than 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses to poorer nations, endorsed a global minimum tax on multinational corporations and agreed they will work together to challenge China’s “non-market economic practices” and to call on Beijing to respect human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

Speaking at the end of a G-7 leaders’ summit in southwest England on Sunday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the promised vaccine doses would come both directly and through the international COVAX program. The commitment falls far short of the 11 billion doses the World Health Organization said is needed to vaccinate at least 70% of the world’s population and truly end the pandemic.

The decision to support a minimum corporate tax had been widely anticipated after finance ministers earlier this month embraced placing a global tax of at least 15% on large multinational companies to stop corporations from using tax havens to avoid taxes.

The minimum rate was championed by the United States and dovetails with the aim of President Joe Biden to focus the summit on ways the democracies can support a more fair global economy by working together.

Biden also wanted to persuade fellow democratic leaders to present a more unified front to compete economically with Beijing and strongly call out China’s “nonmarket policies and human rights abuses.”

In the group’s communique published Sunday, the group said: “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.”

The leaders also said they will promote their values by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Xinjiang, where Beijing is accused of committing serious human rights abuses against the Uyghur minority, and in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong.

Johnson, the summit’s host, said there was a “fantastic degree of harmony” among the G-7 leaders to demonstrate the value of democracy and human rights to the rest of the world and help “the world’s poorest countries to develop themselves in a way that is clean and green and sustainable.”

The G-7 nations are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

CARBIS BAY, England (AP) — The Group of Seven leaders aim to end their first summit in two years with a punchy set of promises Sunday, including vaccinating the world against coronavirus, making huge corporations pay their fair share of taxes and tackling climate change with a blend of technology and money.

They want to show that international cooperation is back after the upheavals caused by the pandemic and the unpredictability of former U.S. President Donald Trump. And they want to convey that the club of wealthy democracies — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — is a better friend to poorer nations than authoritarian rivals such as China.

But it was uncertain how firm the group’s commitments will be on coronavirus vaccines, the economy and the environment when the leaders issue their final communique. Also unclear was whether all of the leaders would back the United States’ call to chastise China for repressing its Uyghur minority and other abuses.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the summit’s host, wanted the three-day meeting to fly the flag for a “Global Britain,” his government’s push to give the midsized country outsized global influence.

Yet Brexit cast a shadow over that goal during the summit on the coast of southwest England. European Union leaders and U.S. President Joe Biden voiced concerns about problems with new U.K.-EU trade rules that have heightened tensions in Northern Ireland.

But overall, the mood has been positive: The leaders smiled for the cameras on the beach at cliff-fringed Carbis Bay, a village and resort that became a traffic-clogged fortress for the meeting. The last G-7 summit was in France in 2019, with last year’s event in the United States scuttled by the pandemic.

The leaders mingled with Queen Elizabeth II at a royal reception on their first evening and were served steak and lobster at a beach barbecue after watching an aeronautic display by the Royal Air Force Red Arrows on their second.

America’s allies were visibly relieved to have the U.S. back as an engaged international player after the “America First” policy of the Trump administration.

“The United States is back, and democracies of the world are standing together,” Biden said as he arrived in the U.K. on the first foreign trip of his 5-month-old presidency. After the G-7 summit, the president will have tea with the queen on Sunday, attend a NATO summit in Brussels on Monday and hold talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday.

At the G-7, Johnson described Biden as a “breath of fresh air.” French President Emmanuel Macron, after speaking one-to-one with Biden, said, “It’s great to have a U.S. president part of the club and very willing to cooperate.”

The re-energized G-7 made ambitious declarations during their meetings about girls’ education, preventing future pandemics and financing greener infrastructure globally. Above all, they vowed to share vaccine doses with less well-off nations that urgently need them. Johnson said the group would pledge at least 1 billion doses, with half of that coming from the United States and 100 million from Britain.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and other public health officials commended the vaccine pledge but said it’s not enough. To truly end the pandemic, he said, 11 billion doses are needed to vaccinate at least 70% of the world’s population by mid-2022.

“We need more and we need them faster,” Tedros said.

Climate change is a key focus of the leaders’ final day of talks on Sunday, and the group is expected to announce new financing measures to help poorer countries reduce carbon emissions.

The “Build Back Better for the World” plan will promise to offer financing for infrastructure — “from railways in Africa to wind farms in Asia” — to help speed up the global shift to renewable energy. The plan is a response to China’s “belt and road” initiative, which has increased Beijing’s worldwide influence.

Climate activists and analysts say filling a $100 billion annual fund to help poor countries tackle the effects of global warming should be at the top of the G-7′s list.

All G-7 countries have pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but many environmentalists say that will be too little, too late.

Naturalist David Attenborough addressed the leaders by video Sunday, warning that humanity is “on the verge of destabilizing the entire planet.”

“If that is so, then the decisions we make this decade — in particular the decisions made by the most economically advanced nations — are the most important in human history,” the veteran documentary filmmaker said.

Max Lawson, head of inequality policy for Oxfam International, welcomed plans to boost investment to help poor countries reduce their carbon footprints but said “it doesn’t help the poor people that are being hit by climate change right now.”

“So, yes, it’s probably a good thing but is it enough? Absolutely not,” he said.

Large crowds of surfers and kayakers took to the sea in a mass protest Saturday to urge better protections for the world’s oceans, while thousands beat drums as they marched outside the summit’s media center in Falmouth.

“G-7 is all greenwashing,” the protesters sang. “We’re drowning in promises, now’s the time to act.”

White House officials also said Biden wants the G-7 leaders to speak in a single voice against the forced labor practices targeting China’s Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities. Biden hopes the denunciation will be part of a joint statement Sunday, but some European allies are reluctant to split so forcefully with Beijing.

Canada, Britain and France largely endorsed Biden’s position on China, while Germany, Italy and the European Union showed more hesitancy, according to two senior Biden administration officials.

The leaders’ final communique is also expected to formally embrace placing a global minimum tax of at least 15% on large multinational companies to stop corporations from using tax havens to avoid taxes.

The minimum rate was championed by the U.S., and dovetails with the aim of Biden — and Johnson — to focus the summit on ways the democracies can collaborate to build a more inclusive, fair global economy and to compete with rising autocracies like China.

Non-G-7 nations India, South Korea, Australia and South Africa were invited to attend as guests to bolster the group’s support for fellow democracies.

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Lawless, Kirka and Hui reported from Falmouth, England.

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