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Foreign ministers from the G7 group of wealthy countries have refrained from spelling out any concrete steps to confront China, amid concern among some members – especially Italy and Germany – over reprisals if their language was too threatening.
Instead ministers bridged their gaps on how to confront China’s rise by vowing only to improve their countries’ resilience to China’s “arbitrary, coercive economic policies and practices”.
The group, chaired by the UK this year and meeting over three days in London, was unequivocal in condemning “the targeting of Uyghurs, members of other ethnic and religious minority groups, and the existence of a large-scale network of ‘political re-education’ camps, and reports of forced labour systems and forced sterilisation”.
But G7 states were left to their own devices to decide how best to combat the alleged use of forced labour in Xinjiang province, with some willing to deploy sanctions, trade bans and others simply to step up information campaigns with businesses.
The criticism of China was carefully balanced with a commitment to “look for opportunities to work with China to promote regional and global peace, security and prosperity”.
The US is promoting a plan for the west to coordinate on an alternative infrastructure plan to rival China’s “belt and road” initiative that has increased Chinese influence especially in Africa.
With much of the three days of discussions taken up with how the democracies in the G7 could forge broader alliances to combat the rise of authoritarian regimes led by China and Russia, the communique called for disinformation units to fight Russian bullying. It also called for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in World Health Organization forums and the World Health Assembly.
Some of the most fraught discussions centred on a plan to revive efforts to ensure the equitable access of Covid vaccines to poor countries in the face of the overwhelming evidence that the wealthy west has monopolised the purchase of vaccines, leaving Africa trailing behind. The South African foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, had warned the group of the west’s moral failure.
The G7 in an action plan referred to raising extra cash for the UN administered Covax distribution scheme, and called for wider production but held back from endorsing the call for pharmaceutical companies to be forced to waive their intellectual property rights.
The paper said instead the G7 would work with industry on promoting partnerships between companies and encouraging voluntary licensing, tech transfer agreements and contract manufacturing on mutually agreed terms.
Some G7 ministers said the waiver discussion was not the number one priority and the focus should be on the voluntary scaling up of production in new partnership agreements, rather than a confrontation with pharma companies that would lead only to protracted court battles.
The 60 sponsors of the proposal from emerging economies are pitted against richer developed countries – such as Switzerland, the United States and in the European Union – where many pharmaceutical companies are based.
The World Bank chief, David Malpass, joined the debate, urging advanced countries to export more surplus vaccines and give up options on vaccine doses to free up supply to developing countries.
In a sign of how the departure of Donald Trump from the world stage was seen as a chance to reignite western multilateralism, and the G7 in particular, the communique, drafted by the UK, including paragraphs on Covid-19, girls’ education and a famine recovery.
In an attempt to show the west can act in concert, the communique ranged over virtually every international trouble spot from Myanmar, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Sahel and Tigray. There has even been provisional agreement to hold a second in-person foreign ministers meeting focused on Africa in the Autumn.
By contrast the US-hosted G7 leaders’ summit was cancelled last year, the Canadian G7 in 2018 ended in chaos when Trump withdrew his backing for the communique and the French G7 in 2019 did not attempt to draft a communique for fear of rows with the US over issues such as trade, human rights and China.
Determined to show a new collegiate American stance, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said the event had been characterised by the degree of “violent agreement”, despite the tensions over how to call out China.
The UK felt its decision to hold an in-person summit had been vindicated by the quality and vigour of the in-person discussion, even if the event was nearly upended when two members of the delegation from India, invited as observers along with Australia, South Korea, and South Africa, tested positive for coronavirus, requiring the whole Indian delegation to self isolate.
Raab also used the cover of the G7, and the presence of the EU external affairs chief, Josep Borrrell, to end his spat over the diplomatic status of the EU delegation in the UK by granting the EU ambassador full diplomatic status.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: G7 foreign ministers refrain from taking concrete action against China | G7