【明報專訊】The G7 video summit was held last Friday, the first multilateral international meeting in which US President Joe Biden participated. Unlike the three main themes expected before the meeting, namely the joint fight against the pandemic, the global economy and co-operation against China, the joint statement issued after the meeting had more to do with the first two issues, with the fight against the pandemic becoming the core issue. China was only lightly touched upon. This shows that although the US and Britain are trying to form a unified front against China through the US's return to multilateral diplomacy, it is not easy for the Western world, overwhelmed by the circumstances, to form a unified position against China on a single issue.
In response to criticism from the United Nations and World Health Organisation about the inequitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines, the G7's joint statement focused on co-operation in the fight against the pandemic, announcing a US$4 billion increase in financial commitment to COVAX, the WHO's global vaccine distribution programme, bringing the total collective G7 funding to $7.5 billion so as to ''make 2021 a turning point for multilateralism and to shape a recovery that promotes the health and prosperity of our people and planet''. But the G7 reportedly remain divided over the pace at which vaccines should be shared.
The latest figures show that China replaced the US as the EU's largest trading partner last year, and many European countries have deep economic and trade ties with China. These countries all hope to reap economic and trade benefits from China while maintaining their security partnership with the US. Biden has returned the US to the Paris Agreement and the WHO, but the tariffs imposed on the EU over the past four years under the Trump administration have yet to be lifted, and it remains unclear whether the US will be able to do so in the future, given the Biden administration's current focus on the pandemic and employment domestically.
In fact, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's earlier proposal to invite Australia, South Korea and India to join the official G7 summit in June to transform the ''Group of Seven'' industrialised nations into the ''Democratic Ten'' (D10) was thwarted by the opposition of four countries: Germany, France, Italy and Japan. Although the four countries oppose the proposal for different reasons, it is reported that Japan is mainly opposed to the entry of South Korea, France is worried about the dilution of the European leadership, while Germany and Italy are mainly concerned about overly anti-China overtones.
Just one day before the G7 video summit, the US, Japan, India and Australia held a Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) meeting of foreign ministers, the first Quad dialogue since the new US President Joe Biden took office. During the meeting the promotion of a vision for a ''free and open Indo-Pacific'' was emphasised, including support for freedom of navigation and strong opposition to attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force. This conveys a thinly veiled message of targeting China.
明報社評 2021.02.22：G7開視頻峰會 顯聯手抗中不易
■/ Glossary 生字 /
thwart /θwɔːt/：to prevent sb from doing what they want to do
overtone /ˈəʊvətəʊn/：an attitude or an emotion that is suggested and is not expressed in a direct way
veiled /veɪld/：not expressed directly or clearly because you do not want your meaning to be obvious