The meetings of Group of Seven (G7) at Cornwall in the United Kingdom (UK) come at a very crucial time, primarily with regard to the high level of vaccine inequality between high, and low-income countries, and progress on meeting climate change targets. The fact that is highly important is that already G7 countries have not provided the needed leadership for quite some time now, for instance, in bringing equity to the production and distribution of Covid. In this regard, a recent article by Fiona Harvey in Guardian said that a prominent African political leader Graça Machel pointed out the following: 'The global solidarity inspired by the Covid pandemic disappeared as soon as vaccines came along, the Mozambican politician Graça Machel has said before the G7 summit, as she called on richer countries to share vaccines and for progress on tackling the climate crisis.'
In fact, oil, food, and vaccine nationalism have strongly dented the trust of world in the spirit of multilateralism and globalization. In that background, the current meetings of G7 hold prominence for not only the image of the group itself, but any further delay in properly dealing with the pandemic hold the danger of more dangerous outcomes in terms of creation and spread of Covid-19's new, dangerous variants. In a recent Guardian article 'The G7 is the west's last chance to lead' by Gideon Rachman plausibly argued that the group's economic weight had significantly diminished over the years 'As Renata Dwan of Chatham House, a UK think-tank, points out, in the 1970s the G7 nations accounted for some 80 percent of world gross domestic product. That is now down to about 40 percent.'
Hence, in order to remain relevant and effective, it had invited to the current summit in Cornwall other countries - South Korea, India, and South Africa - but missed an important country in the shape of China. In this regard, Gideon in the same article pointed out: 'Nonetheless, several of the core issues placed on the G7 summit agenda - the pandemic, climate and trade - ultimately require Chinese co-operation. They are global issues that cannot be fixed without the participation of the world's most populous nation and second-largest economy.' Excluding China from the meeting indeed sends a weak signal. This constitutes a failure to present a united multilateral front to tackle issues of immense global importance.
A panel formulated by UK's PM went ahead in a consultative way, and prepared proposals ahead of the G7 meetings in Cornwall, whereby 'The G7 Panel has concluded its summary recommendations, which Lord Sedwill [G7 envoy on economic resilience] will discuss with G7 Leaders in Carbis Bay, on the basis of which a full report will be completed for the Autumn of 2021. Those summary recommendations include a 'Cornwall Consensus' - a new long-term approach to global economic resilience - which Leaders are encouraged to adopt, supported by a set of initial actions that could be taken to begin meeting that approach.'
The Panel has made recommendations, which include, among others, '[a] We call upon the G7 to agree to a comprehensive and ambitious health package with a focus on equitable access to vaccines and medicine, building diverse and co-dependent production capacity, while strengthening health systems... Strengthening the WHO as the central global governance forum, reviewing and improving the performance of COVAX, and boosting the COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT) - where appropriate expanding it to other diseases; [b] We must accelerate investment towards climate change mitigation and adaptation... In parallel, mechanisms consistent with WTO rules are needed to ensure a level playing field in global trade...; [c] The G7, working with other open economies and relevant international organisations like the OECD, should lead the establishment of a "Critical Supply Forum" ("CSF") to: identify emergent risks; build common vulnerability indicators and methodologies; share best practice; and provide a policy coordination forum for national governments in times of crisis to ensure trade measures support the necessary flow of critical goods and services; and [d] The G7 should develop a joint vision for, and work with members to initiate, root-and-branch reform of the WTO to support open and rules-based trade.'
Alberto Nardelli, Kitty Donaldson and Tim Ross in their June 10, 2021 Bloomberg article have argued, among other thing, that 'Group of Seven leaders are set to vow to deliver at least 1 billion extra doses of vaccines over the next year to help cover 80% of the world's adult population, according to a draft communique seen by Bloomberg News. Ahead of the G-7 summit in the UK, officials are putting together a document that outlines a plan to end the pandemic by December 2022. The document has yet to be finalized but will form the basis of final-stage talks at the summit of leaders in Cornwall, southwestern England, starting Friday.' If this materializes, this is indeed a much-needed welcome move by G7 after their poor show in showing leadership in this regard.
The same Bloomberg article pointed out 'On climate change, the draft agreement includes: Leaders haggling over climate funding but vow to step up and to try and meet a $100 billion target, without giving details of how to get there. They will pledge new funding to support green transitions in developing countries.' Delivering on this is indeed very important in terms of the much-needed support for low-income countries to effectively play their part in dealing with the climate change crisis.
(The writer holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Barcelona; he previously worked at the International Monetary Fund)
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021