Falmouth, England – After dinner with the Queen, the President Joe Biden And other leaders from some of the world’s richest countries returned to work on Saturday with a focus on the economy, foreign policy and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saturday is the second day of group of seven Peak in Cornwall, England. This gathering is the leaders’ first personal meeting since the start of the coronavirus crisis, and much of the discussion has focused on what British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described as “at least the worst pandemic the world has faced in our lifetimes”.
Leaders are expected to commit to using all of their resources to prevent a global pandemic from happening again.
Here’s what’s on their agenda for Saturday:
The “roots” of the epidemic
A session on health policy will focus on addressing the root causes of COVID-19 a pandemic on a global scale. The G7 leaders will be joined in that discussion by their counterparts from South Korea, South Africa, Australia and India, the United Nations Secretary-General and other leaders from international organizations.
The leaders are expected to issue a statement outlining a series of concrete commitments to prevent any recurrence of the human and economic devastation caused by the coronavirus.
They will also receive a presentation from Sir Patrick Vallance, a British physician and scientist, and Melinda Gates, an American philanthropist, on the work of the Epidemic Preparedness Partnership.
The partnership includes international experts from industry, government and scientific institutions, and was set up earlier this year by the UK to advise the G7 on how to prevent and respond to future pandemics. One of its goals will be to be able to develop vaccines in less than 100 days. The partnership is due to publish its report on Saturday.
Other sessions at the summit will discuss economic resilience and foreign policy.
China and the West
The White House says it does not seek to make China the “dominant issue” while Biden is in Europe. But Beijing’s economic development model, its human rights record in Xinjiang, and its lack of transparency on a range of issues from the environment to labor standards, will dominate discussions on Saturday.
G7 leaders launched a new global infrastructure initiative called “Building Back Better for the World”. It is framed as an alternative to China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, a massive multi-billion dollar development project spanning dozens of countries, whose overall idea is to modernize and reinvent the ancient Silk Road connecting China with Europe and beyond. China is helping with financing, often through predatory loans, international railways, highways, ports and other major infrastructure as part of its initiative.
With their new initiative, the leaders of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations expect to collectively invest hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries in the coming years.
“It’s about presenting a positive, positive, alternative view of the world other than that offered by China,” the White House said of its plan.
On Monday, Biden will travel to Brussels for a NATO military meeting, and for the first time NATO countries will address a security challenge from China directly in a statement, according to the White House.
Weapons around the world, and each other
Biden wrapped his arm around French President Emmanuel Macron as they chatted amiably on the sidelines of the summit on Friday. Macron returned the favor, reflecting what appears to be a warm and friendly relationship between the leaders.
On Saturday, Biden and Macron had a more formal opportunity to rekindle their burgeoning romance as they met in a bilateral meeting.
“The sun is shining, we’re on that beach, I’m fine,” Biden told reporters before the meeting as he and Macron sat next to each other against an aquamarine backdrop. “And I’m with the President of France, it makes me feel better.”
Pointing to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, Macron noted that what is needed among the G7 leaders is cooperation, which he said Biden is offering.
“I think it’s great to have an American president at the club who is so willing to cooperate,” he said. “And I think what it shows is that leadership is partnership.”
Among the topics expected to be brought up during their meeting: counter-terrorism in Africa and the ongoing negotiations between the EU and the UK on Brexit – specifically, how to break the deadlock on what to do with the post-Brexit border between Ireland (part from the European Union) and Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom). The lack of a solid border between Ireland and Northern Ireland helped facilitate the Good Friday Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland.
Protests on land and at sea
The protesters, who aimed to disrupt the three-day summit, came out in full force. Hundreds of protesters blocked roads and took to the streets on Friday as the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion launched a protest against what it said was the failure of G7 nations to honor global climate commitments made in Paris in 2015.
On Saturday, protesters headed to the sea, among other acts of protest.
An environmental group called Surfers Against Sewage organized a protest off Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth. Surfers grab their surfboards, kayaks, snorkel and other gear and head into the water to draw attention to threats to the oceans and climate. The group hopes more than 1,000 surfers will participate in the protest.
Extinction Rebellion organized a soccer game between fans and environmentalists. But the match, which took place a day after the European Football Championship kicked off across Europe, came with a twist: the referee was a banker.
“The Games are rigged to show how corporate greed and its financing have a corrupting effect not only in (football) but more importantly in climate policy,” a statement from the event’s organizers said.
Barbecue on the beach
How do you follow dinner with the Queen?
With a beach barbecue, no less.
On Friday night, G7 leaders and their families dined with Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family over spiced watermelon, roasted turbot on the bone, and English strawberry pavlova. Tonight’s dinner promises to be a less formal affair.
Carrie Johnson, wife of Boris Johnson, hosts a barbecue on Karbis Bay Beach for the leaders and their families. Dinner fare will include scallops, Curgurrell lobster claws, and Portscatho mackerel, followed by sirloin and Newlyn lobster. Afterwards, VIPs will be served processed cheese, hot buttered rum and marshmallows toasted around fire pits on the sand. And for drinking (it’s, after all, the Queen’s official birthday): Cornish sparkling wine, German Riesling, Australian Shiraz, Cornish beer and hedge row cocktail.