Leaders at the Saudi-hosted G20 summit to pledge to ensure fair distribution of vaccines
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Leaders at the Saudi-hosted G20 summit to pledge to ensure fair distribution of vaccines

Leaders at the Saudi-hosted G20 summit to pledge to ensure fair distribution of vaccines

The battle to counter the pandemic dominated the first day of a virtual summit of G20 nations on Saturday


Leaders of the world’s biggest economies will on Sunday dedicate themselves to financing equal access to Covid-19 testing, treatments and vaccines, and encourage bondholders to provide private relief to poor countries, according to a draft of their statement.

Referring to medicines and vaccines, the Group of 20 will vow to “spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people, consistent with members’ commitments to incentivise innovation,” according to the draft obtained by Bloomberg News. “We recognise the role of extensive immunisation as a global public good.”

The battle to counter the pandemic dominated the first day of a virtual summit of G20 nations on Saturday, hosted by Saudi Arabia. US President Donald Trump stayed quiet on sharing vaccines made by the country with other nations. He later told his counterparts that any American who wants the vaccine will be able to get it, and singled out US producers Pfizer and Moderna, according to officials who asked not to be named discussing the talks, which weren’t open to the press.

Trump praised American leadership, claiming credit for what he said was an efficient fight against the virus and success in bolstering the nation’s economy. But he said nothing about granting access to American vaccines to the rest of the world.

Shortly after Trump’s remarks he left the virtual session — while UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was speaking — and was replaced first by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and then White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, according to officials familiar with the meeting. Some other leaders also dropped off after giving their speeches, the officials said.

Russia in August trumpeted its success in becoming the first nation to register a Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V. US and European rivals, though, are now moving faster to produce their vaccines and obtain regulatory approval. The European Union has reached a deal with Pfizer, which is partnered with Germany’s BioNTech SE, and is negotiating an accord with Moderna.

China, meanwhile, is already rolling out mass vaccine output to fight the disease, offering it as a tool of soft power.

Echoing Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said it was up to each individual to decide whether to be vaccinated, adding that the pandemic shouldn’t justify attacks on people’s freedom.

Trump wasn’t alone in praising his own country’s efforts. But Russian President Vladimir Putin also said his country is ready to share its vaccines with others that need it. That’s even as Russia hasn’t produced enough doses to start mass inoculation of its own population.

“The main risk, of course, remains the likelihood, despite some positive signals, of mass, long-term unemployment and the accompanying rise in poverty and social dislocation,” Putin said in his speech. “And the role of the G20 is to ensure this doesn’t happen.”

“It is a case when competition may be inevitable, but we must proceed primarily from humanitarian considerations and make it a priority,” Putin added about vaccine availability, according to an official Kremlin translation of his remarks.

China, likewise, made a point of offering up its vaccines. “China will honor its pledge, provide help and support to developing countries, and strive to make vaccines a global public good that is accessible and affordable to all countries,” President Xi Jinping told the meeting, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Xi also called on G20 members to support the World Health Organization in coordinating resource allocation to ensure equitable and efficient distribution of vaccines worldwide.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the meeting the G20 should work to secure the “affordable and fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccine for everyone.” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said countries should share vaccines, and stressed the importance of multilateral cooperation against the virus, according to a G20 official.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who holds the rotating chairmanship of the 55-nation African Union, called for all countries to have “equitable and affordable access” to a vaccine once it becomes available and urged the G20 to help ensure any funding shortfalls are addressed.

Debt plan

The G20 leaders will also acknowledge a lack of participation by private creditors in the group’s debt relief plan, known as the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, and will “strongly encourage” them to participate on comparable terms to official bilateral creditors, according to the communique draft. They also plan to encourage multilateral development banks to do more to support the initiative, which last month was extended through June.

Governments will recognise that debt treatments beyond the initiative may be required on a case-by-case basis given the scale of the crisis, citing the “significant debt vulnerabilities and deteriorating outlook” in many low-income countries. The G20 will endorse the Common Framework for debt treatments beyond the plan, according to the draft.

Reuters earlier reported the G20 plans.

The common framework between the G20 — which includes China — and the Paris Club, a grouping of mostly western government creditors, was completed at a meeting of finance ministers and central bankers earlier this month. The new set of principles, inspired by those of the Paris Club, aims to bolster the participation of China and private lenders in debt relief to more than 70 of the world’s poorest countries.

Over the last decade, China and private commercial creditors have become the biggest lenders to countries across the developing world, many of which are now reeling from the pandemic. China is the world’s largest official creditor and was owed almost 60 per cent of the bilateral debt that the poorest nations were due to repay this year.

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