Biden to focus on COVID-19, China, at his first G7 summit

White House confirms pandemic and China’s power are top matters of discussion at Biden’s first G7 meeting.

President Joe Biden hosts a meeting with labour leaders to discuss coronavirus response legislation in the Oval Office on February 17, 2021 [Leah Millis/Reuters]

US President Joe Biden plans to focus on the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic during his upcoming meeting with G7 world leaders, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed on Thursday.

G7, short for the Group of Seven, is an intergovernmental organisation with the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom as members. Russia was previously a member before its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea caused its removal.

Friday’s meeting will be Biden’s first with the group as president and his first major international engagement since taking office last month. The meeting will take place virtually due to the pandemic.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on February 17, 2021 [Leah Millis/Reuters]

“President Biden’s focus is on global response to the COVID pandemic, including coordination on vaccine production, distribution and supplies, as well as continued efforts to mobilise and cooperate against the threat of emerging infectious diseases,” Psaki said.

Psaki highlighted Biden’s moves to “re-engage” with the World Health Organization and the administration’s plans to join the COVAX initiative, a global effort to produce and distribute vaccines to developing countries.

“Through multilateral mechanisms, these global efforts reinforce the president’s progress to address the COVID-19 pandemic at home, including increasing the pace of vaccinations instituting public health measures for safe travel and providing schools with scientific guidance for safe operation,” Psaki said.

Biden plans to further “discuss the global economic recovery, including the importance of all industrial countries maintaining economic support for the recovery” after the pandemic subsides.

China, where the novel coronavirus emerged in late 2019, will also be a topic of discussion.

Psaki said nations must consider the importance of “updating global roles to tackle economic challenges such as those posed by China” during the meeting.

China’s economic emergence and power moves in the region have been a concern for successive US administrations.

Former President Donald Trump governed at odds with Beijing, placing tariffs on Chinese goods and blocking supplies to Chinese telecommunications companies.

Biden has taken aim at China for its treatment of its Uighur minority community, which is currently held in internment camps. Beijing has faced accusations of “genocide” over its actions.

“Well, there will be repercussions for China and he knows that,” Biden said of Chinese Premier Xi Jinping at a townhall meeting hosted by CNN on Tuesday.

On the same day as the G7 summit, Biden will join a “special edition” of the Munich Security Conference, a forum for global leaders that focuses on defence.

Source: Al Jazeera