Leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations on Friday gathered in person for the first time in almost two years, aiming to help poorer countries ride out the coronavirus pandemic by providing 1 billion vaccine doses in hopes of ending the global crisis by 2022.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson started off the three-day summit, taking place in the seaside resort of Carbis Bay, Cornwall, by calling for the global recovery from the pandemic to address long-standing inequalities which are contributing to issues like the developing countries' struggles to gain access to vaccine supplies.
"What's gone wrong with this pandemic, what risks being a lasting scar is, the inequalities that have been entrenched. We need to make sure that as we recover, we level up across our societies -- we need to build back better," Johnson told his counterparts from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States plus the European Union.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga used the first session of the summit to again express his resolve to hold the Tokyo Olympics next month even as concerns linger about going ahead with the global sporting event when the spread of the virus is not under control.
Reiterating Japan's commitment to ensuring the safety of the Tokyo Games through adequate infection control steps, Suga was quoted as telling the meeting, "I would like you to send strong teams, with expectations that the world's top-level athletes will show their best performances."
In its ongoing struggle to turn public opinion in favor of the Olympics, the Japanese government has been hoping the G-7 leaders will back the games in a joint communique to be released when the summit ends on Sunday.
On the economic front, the leaders agreed on the need to continue providing policy support "for as long as necessary" to create a strong, balanced and inclusive recovery, the White House said.
It said they are expected to endorse a minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent to keep multinationals from shifting profits to beneficial tax jurisdictions.
The 15 percent levy was proposed by the United States and has already been agreed on by G-7 finance ministers who met in London earlier this month.
On the gathering's second day, the leaders are expected to discuss geopolitical challenges and trade and development finance, possibly coming up with a new initiative to provide financing for infrastructure in the developing world as a counter to Beijing's "Belt and Road" project.
The Chinese cross-border infrastructure project has often been criticized for its "debt-trap diplomacy" that allegedly lacks transparency in lending and can burden countries with high debt.
The G-7 leaders will also have a session dedicated to key foreign policy issues, such as those involving North Korea, Russia and Iran, as well as another session on the fight against the pandemic, which will be joined by guest countries -- Australia, India, South Africa and South Korea.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the session remotely, having decided not to travel to Britain for the summit due to the pandemic, which has hit the South Asian country hard.
With China and Russia engaging in so-called vaccine diplomacy to increase their clout, Britain has been calling on the G-7 members to make "concrete commitments" to vaccinating the entire world by the end of 2022.
U.S. President Joe Biden said Thursday that his country will be providing 500 million vaccine doses through the U.N.-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing program, with delivery starting in August.
Johnson said his country will donate 100 million surplus doses within the next year, including 5 million beginning in the coming weeks.
The final day of the summit will see discussions on efforts to promote democracy, human rights, rule of law and open societies amid concerns over China's alleged abuses against the Muslim Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang region and the crackdown on Hong Kong.
The summit is taking place amid renewed focus on the democratic values shared by the G-7 members, drawing a contrast with China and Russia, which Biden labels as autocracies that are challenging the open international order.
With Biden vowing to restore alliances and multilateralism, there seems to be more of a mood of unity among the leaders compared with the gatherings held during his predecessor Donald Trump's presidency, when he stood apart on trade and other issues based on his "America First" policy.
The last in-person G-7 summit, chaired by France in 2019, failed to adopt a comprehensive joint declaration of the type customarily seen in decades past.
The United States held the rotating presidency in 2020, but Trump called the more than four-decade-old G-7 framework "outdated" and did not host an in-person summit amid the pandemic and presidential election campaign.