G7 nations agree on vaccine donation and scrutiny of China

Oxfam head of inequality policy accuses leaders of failing to meet challenges of times

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) major industrialised nations have agreed to supply coronavirus vaccines to poorer countries and to help them to tackle climate change and have challenged China on human rights abuses and unfair economic practices. But campaigners have complained that the one billion vaccine doses pledged are inadequate and that the funding for a new plan to help poorer countries is vague.

US president Joe Biden welcomed the outcome of the summit in Cornwall, which was hosted by British prime minister Boris Johnson and also attended by the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada and the European Union.

"As you know, last time the G7 met, there was no mention of China. But this time there is mention of China," Mr Biden told reporters after the meeting.

“I’m sure my colleagues think there’s things they think they could improve that they wanted, but I’m satisfied. I think you’re going to see straightforward dealing with China. And again, we’re not looking, as I’ve told [China’s president] Xi Jinping myself, I’m not looking for conflict. Where we co-operate, we’ll co-operate. Where we disagree, I’m going to state it frankly, and we’re going to respond to actions that are inconsistent.”


Global economy

In their closing communiqué, the leaders said that with regard to China they would “consult on collective approaches to challenging non-market policies and practices which undermine the fair and transparent operation of the global economy”.

In another apparent reference to China, they expressed concern about the use of forced labour in global supply chains, “including state-sponsored forced labour of vulnerable groups and minorities, including in the agricultural, solar, and garment sectors”.

The leaders called on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Xinjiang, where Beijing has been accused of serious rights abuses against the Uyghur minority, and in Hong Kong.

They agreed to launch a new initiative called Build Back Better for the World (B3W) to counter the Belt and Road Initiative, China's overseas lending and investment system that has increased its influence across Asia, Africa, Latin America and parts of Europe. B3W would prioritise investment in environmental projects and anti-corruption efforts in a way that avoids obliging countries to take on excessive debt, one of the biggest complaints about the Belt and Road Initiative.

‘Cook the books’

But the communiqué offered few details about how B3W would be funded, apart from promising to "magnify" support from the International Monetary Fund to reach a goal of $100 billion.

Max Foster, head of inequality policy at Oxfam, said the summit would "live on in infamy", accusing the leaders of failing to meet the challenges of the times.

“Never in the history of the G7 has there been a bigger gap between their actions and the needs of the world. In the face of these challenges, the G7 have chosen to cook the books on vaccines and continue to cook the planet. We don’t need to wait for history to judge this summit a colossal failure, it is plain for all to see,” he said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times