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G-7 Ends, Leaders Release Joint Statement


The G-7 summit wrapped up today in Cornwall in southwestern England. A key agreement - the leaders of seven of the world's largest economies promised to give a billion COVID vaccine doses to other nations struggling to immunize their populations. The group, which includes the U.S., the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, also called out China on human rights abuses and called for a study into the origins of the coronavirus there.

NPR's Frank Langfitt covered the summit and is with us on the line now. Frank, thanks so much for joining us.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Great to be here.

MARTIN: So what drove the vaccine pledge? And how might those billion doses be distributed?

LANGFITT: Yeah, I'm - the nations were under a lot of public pressure. And I should mention it - initially, they said a billion, and now it's down to about 870 million. I don't think they've been able to get exactly what they want. And you've got to remember; the United Kingdom, the United States, they've been way ahead of most countries on the vaccinations. And you have some countries that are, you know, maybe 2, 3, 4% of the population. So I think that there was a lot of pressure on them to do something.

They were at a beach resort in Cornwall out here in southwestern England. So it certainly wouldn't look good - the rich nations doing this, having a good time over the weekend, and not doing something more for other countries. And the other thing is that Russia and China have been engaged in vaccine diplomacy. And these are very important Western countries, and they wanted to be - you know, wanted to be seen as doing something to help out.

MARTIN: President Biden has taken a pretty hard line on China. What did he have to say at the summit?

LANGFITT: They had a statement that came out, and he was pretty pleased with the language. And he was clearly the prime mover, I think, in focusing on China. And one of the things is he was championing this idea of a global infrastructure program to help developing countries and also to compete with China's Belt and Road initiative. It's worth mentioning that. That initiative has actually been out for eight years. It was a massive project. So the - you know, the West would really be playing a lot of catch-up.

And Biden, as he said before, he sees the G-7, he - basically in a contest for our times. And I want to read this statement because I think it's important. It gets at the way he sees the world. He says, we're in a contest - not with China per se but with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, as to whether democracies can compete with them in a rapidly changing 21st century. And he said the grandchildren of these leaders would be looking to them in 15 years to see if they'd really stepped up. Now, the only response that I've seen so far from anyone from China was a spokesman of the Chinese embassy here in London saying the days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone.

MARTIN: Well, you know, to that end, how do some of the other G-7 leaders view China?

LANGFITT: Michel, I think it's a much more mixed view. The U.K. has taken a really hard line, just like the U.S. in some ways, particularly on democracy in Hong Kong. And the statement also emphasized from these leaders that they want to work with China on battling climate change. And they don't really have a choice. China's a huge emitter. And Emmanuel Macron, the French president, he did go out of his way to say the G-7 isn't a club that is hostile to China. So there's really a range of view among the seven leaders.

MARTIN: As briefly as you can, President Biden is now heading to Brussels for a NATO summit. As people will remember, president - former President Trump criticized NATO nations for not spending enough on defense. What's Biden's approach? And what are the main issues?

LANGFITT: I think that what you're going to see from Biden is tremendous verbal support. He is a traditional supporter of NATO, for sure. But Biden, as we've just been talking about, he's not as focused on defending Europe. He's more focused on China. That's harder for NATO to be helpful because it doesn't have navies that can send lots of ships out there. So I think he'll be looking for NATO to do more in its own backyard in Europe and also to do more on combating cyber with Russia and China, which NATO's already been working on.

MARTIN: That was NPR's Frank Langfitt. Frank, thank you.

LANGFITT: Great to talk, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.