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International relations

G-7 ends, touting unity on Taiwan, COVID and climate change

Joint statement appeals to democratic values in clear reference to China

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as U.S. President Joe Biden attends alongside him at a plenary session of the G-7 summit in England on June 13.   © Reuters

CORNWALL, U.K. -- The Group of Seven summit concluded on Sunday, with the leaders' closing communique vowing action on the pandemic and climate change while projecting a united stance on democratic values and a shared understanding of global challenges, including those arising from China.

In a first for the G-7, Taiwan garnered a mention in the communique, with China invoked in different areas of the leaders' concluding statement, which was based on three days of wide-ranging discussions held in Cornwall, England.

Alluding to democratic values, summit host British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the closing press conference: "It's not good enough for us to just rest on our laurels and talk about how important those values are. And this isn't about imposing our values on the rest of the world. What we as the G-7 need to do is demonstrate the benefits of democracy and freedom and human rights to the rest of the world."

Mindful of the catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate-change crisis, and growing systemic challenges posed by authoritarian states such as China and Russia exerting greater influence over developing countries, the G-7 leaders were eager to show after years of disunity that they can provide direction and solutions for the world.

Global leaders and organizations had been calling on the group of wealthy nations to do more to vaccinate the world, and at the summit the G-7 pledged over 1 billion doses for poorer countries over the next year.

To prevent future pandemics, the leaders also agreed to establish early-warning systems and bolster scientific support by aiming to develop vaccines, treatments and tests in 100 days rather than 300.

The Indo-Pacific region has increasingly become a geopolitical focal point for the G-7 members, and its communique on Sunday reflected that.

"We reiterate the importance of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is inclusive and based on the rule of law," the statement read.

At the press conference, Johnson added: "Obviously there are some tensions at the moment that we think can be ... allayed by proper observance of the rules-based international system in which we believe." The U.K. and the G-7, are "determined to do that," he said.

As for Taiwan, its unprecedented inclusion in the communique followed a discussion about the island by the G-7 foreign ministers who met in May.

"We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues," Sunday's communique stated.

"We remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China seas and strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo and increase tensions," it continued.

China loomed heavily over the summit, as the G-7 sought to show solidarity. Referring to China in his concluding press conference, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, "What we really came together clearly to say and put forward today was a need to speak with one voice, a need to coordinate much, much more closely our working together and our focus."

Specifically, the communique urged China to "respect human rights and fundamental freedoms" in relation to Xinjiang as well as Hong Kong's "rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy" that stem from the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.

The G-7 also called for a WHO-convened investigation into the origins of COVID-19, saying it should include China "as recommended by the experts' report."

This pronouncement went further than the health ministers' conclusions in earlier meetings that did not explicitly single out China for investigation.

China figured further into the G-7 summit on the economic front. "With regard to China, and competition in the global economy, we will continue to consult on collective approaches to challenging non-market policies and practices which undermine the fair and transparent operation of the global economy," the communique said.

Held from Friday to Sunday, the summit brought G-7 leaders together to discuss post-pandemic recovery, economic resilience and values, foreign policy, health, climate change, and open society.

The G-7 consists of the U.K., U.S., Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Italy, plus the EU, and this year the U.K. as the host country invited India, South Korea, Australia, and South Africa to attend as guests.

A major agreement produced by the summit was the Build Back Better World (B3W) partnership, billed as a G-7 infrastructure investment initiative based on democratic values and norms promoting "clean and green growth" in developing countries.

While the initiative is widely regarded as a countermeasure to China's Belt and Road initiative and the White House had framed it as such in its pre-announcement communications, the leaders' communique did not directly identify it as relating to China.

When asked about the B3W, Johnson's spokesperson did not mention China, explaining the intention was for developing countries "to have options."

In addition, climate change and green recovery proved a major pillar of the summit.

Johnson said, "G-7 countries account for 20% of global carbon emissions, and we were clear this weekend that action has to start with us."

The countries committed to achieving net zero by 2050, halving collective emissions by 2030, increasing climate finance by 2025, and targeting the protection of 30% of land and oceans by 2030.

The Tokyo Olympics, due to begin in July, also received a G-7 endorsement, which was welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

The leaders stated they "reiterate our support for the holding of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 in a safe and secure manner as a symbol of global unity in overcoming COVID-19."

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