Of Biden, G7 summitry, and vaccines


By Carlton Joseph

Carlton Joseph

United States (US) President Joe Biden declared that “America is back” following the G7 summit of world leaders in the U.K.

G7 leaders agreed to tackle China’s human rights record and climate change. They committed to donate one billion doses of Covid vaccines to poorer countries, boost global vaccine manufacturing and shorten the time it takes to develop new vaccines, tests and treatments. They also pledged to raise $100bn to help the developing world cut its carbon emissions, and to get 40 million more girls into school around the world.

Laudable goals, but without specifying how they will be accomplished this amounts to just “ole talk”.  For the past 12 years the G7 has promised to channel $100bn a year to poor nations coping with climate change, they have failed to deliver, and most of what has been provided has been in the form of loans that are pushing debtor countries into extreme poverty.

The promise of 1bn doses of Covid vaccines to poorer countries is welcomed, but falls far short of the 11 billion doses the World Health Organization said is needed to vaccinate at least 70% of the world’s population and end the pandemic. Biden acknowledged that vaccinating the world may not be achieved until 2023.  In the meantime the G7 should be supporting a temporary waiver for coronavirus vaccine patents to address this shortage. People must be prioritized over profit.

In his meeting with NATO, Biden changed its focus from defense of Europe from the Soviet Union, to standing up to China’s authoritarianism and growing military might. Biden, unfortunately, has initiated a “cold war” against China.

People, especially in the Global South, must challenge the idea that the rules based international order need to be preserved, because all it has brought the world is war and refugees, climate crisis, “Free trade” agreements that benefit wealthy, powerful countries and impoverish poor countries. 

Amid all the talk, the only concrete decision from the G7 meeting was the agreement to impose a minimum tax of at least 15% on large multinational companies to stop corporations from using tax havens to avoid taxes.  Hopefully, this will enable countries, hosting multinationals, to collect revenues and decelerate the race to the bottom.

Since the meeting, we found out the actual amount of vaccines that will be donated is 613 million and not 1billion.  More disturbing, Venezuela’s last payment for the COVAX mechanism to access vaccines was frozen, so she cannot access the vaccine.  Has Biden decided that Trump’s irresponsible policy toward Venezuela is good policy?  Does Biden think that exposing Venezuelans to the virus and by extension, the Caribbean and the US, to the possibility of new variants is building back better?  Caribbean leaders need to pressure the US to remove sanctions from Venezuela.

To date, 85 percent of vaccines administered worldwide have been in high and upper-middle-income countries, only 0.3% of doses have been administered in low-income countries.  Since the pandemic the G7 and central banks have printed $9 trillion for bankers to save the capitalist economies, but find it difficult to spend $39 billion to vaccinate everyone with two doses. 

Biden has asked the G7 to present a more unified front to compete economically with Beijing and attacked China’s nonmarket policies.  He also wants the US-backed Build Back Better World (B3W) plan to challenge China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) initiative, which has helped finance trains, roads, and ports in many countries.  Is the West now prepared to invest in poorer countries infrastructure?

Developing countries should remember the earlier forms of development initiatives spearheaded by the US, the IMF and like institutions, saddled nations with debt for over 70 years by imposing structural adjustment and austerity programs. Those countries have absolutely nothing to show for it.

On the other hand, the BRI countries decide on the projects with the view that they will generate revenues to pay the debt, and retain profits to reinvest and build their countries. China has been known to renegotiate contracts when issues have been raised.  Hopefully, the competition for the hearts and minds of the world would make the G7 countries more empathetic to the world’s problems.

The US can start by lifting sanctions on Cuba immediately and allow it to sell and distribute the high quality vaccines it has produced to fight the coronavirus. Cuba says that its vaccines are effective against the variants that are prevalent in Brazil and some African countries.

Historically, these summits are known to generate more hype than substance.  They are the primary tools for propagating the corporate globalization agenda, which is to have open access to the countries they exploit while limiting access to their economies through protectionist measures.

Trade agreements, Intellectual property agreements and other agreements only extend the power of corporations at the expense of the needs of the people in the underdeveloped world.


( Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph who lives in Washington DC, is a close observer of political developments in  the United States.)