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Editorial:G7 video summit

【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

七大工業國集團(G7)視訊峰會上周五舉行,這是美國總統拜登參與的首場多邊國際會議,與會前輿論預期的聯合抗疫、全球經濟、合作應對中國三大主題不同,會後發表的聯合聲明,對前兩個議題涉及較多,抗疫更成核心議題,而對中國則只輕輕帶過。這顯示儘管美、英極力想藉美國對多邊主義外交的回歸,組成對抗中國的統一戰線,但在形勢比人強下,西方世界在單一議題上或較易形成對華統一立場,若想結成全面反華陣營,並不容易。

作為對聯合國和世界衛生組織(WHO)批評新冠疫苗分配不公的回應,G7的聯合聲明聚焦抗疫合作,宣布對世衛組織的全球疫苗分配計劃COVAX的財政承諾增加40億美元後,令G7集體的資助總額達到75億美元,以彰顯2021年「成為多邊主義的轉捩點,並塑造促進人類和地球健康與繁榮的復蘇」。但據報道,7國在以何種速度分享疫苗方面仍有分歧。

最新數據顯示,去年中國已經取代美國,成為歐盟最大的貿易伙伴,眾多歐洲國家與中國的經貿關係相當深厚,這些國家都希望能一邊從中國得到經貿利益,一邊維持與美國在安全領域上的伙伴關係。拜登重返巴黎協定、重回世衛組織,但過去4年在特朗普執政下美國向歐盟徵收的關稅仍未撤回,在拜登美國政府目前專注於國內疫情和就業率的情况下,未來美國是否能移除這些關稅,仍然是未知之數。

事實上,英國首相約翰遜較早前提出邀請澳洲、韓國、印度3國加入6月的G7正式峰會,欲將「七大工業國集團」變身為「民主十國聯盟」(D10)的構想,就因德法意日4國的反對而觸礁。雖然4國反對的原因不同,據報日本主要是反對韓國的加入,法國是擔心歐洲的主導權遭稀釋,德意兩國則主要是顧慮反華色彩過於鮮明。

就在G7視訊峰會舉行的前一天,美日印澳「四方安全對話」(Quad)舉行了外長會議,這是美國新任總統拜登上任以來的首次Quad對話,會議強調推進對「自由和開放的印度洋-太平洋」願景,包括支持航行自由,強烈反對試圖以武力片面改變現狀,針對中國的取態呼之欲出。

■/ 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

■英語社評聲檔:link.mingpao.com/53000.htm

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