G7 leaders have backed a vast global infrastructure plan for developing and emerging countries to rival the Chinese "Belt and Road" project. The move came at the initiative of President Joe Biden, the White House announced.
It comes on the second day of the summit of the Group of Seven nations -- the world's seven biggest economies -- in Cornwall in southwest England.
Under the slogan "Build Back Better World" (B3W), the White House said the project would mobilise private sector capital in a "transparent infrastructure partnership" to meet the shortfall in the developing world that had been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"B3W will be global in scope, from Latin America and the Caribbean to Africa to the Indo-Pacific," the White House statement said. The aim is to help countries recover from the pandemic, focusing on the climate, health, digital technology and the fight against inequality, it added.
Leaders set to unveil pandemic prevention plan
After the first face-to-face contacts and in-person socialising on Friday, G7 leaders entered the nitty-gritty of global issues on Saturday, focusing in particular on how to prevent future pandemics and defend multilateralism.
As well as promising more vaccines for the world's developing countries, leaders are expected to make a major announcement on avoiding future repeats of the coronavirus pandemic which has already caused 3.7 million deaths around the world.
The anticipated "Carbis Bay" declaration -- named after the Cornish resort which is one of the venues for the summit -- is being has been hailed by the UK prime minister's office as "historic" and is expected to contain a series of commitments on measures to avoid another global health crisis.
It's thought there will be pledged to develop vaccines, treatments and diagnoses, reinforce global surveillance, and reform and strengthen the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Group of Seven nations are expected to commit to sharing at least one billion coronavirus shots with the world, Boris Johnson said before the summit.
The debate could also focus on the tricky question of suspending vaccine patents in order to increase their production. The United States and France are in favour, but Germany is opposed.
Anti-pandemic action plan anticipated
Saturday full agenda saw working groups and one-to-one meetings scheduled. G7 leaders were joined by their counterparts from Australia, South Africa and South Korea, as well as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi was due to intervene virtually, given the acute health crisis in his country.
The opening of the summit allowed heads of state and government from France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the US, Canada and Japan to meet together in person for the first time in nearly two years.
The first day saw the traditional family photo with a Cornish beach as a backdrop, and a reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth along with other royal family members at an eco-tourism site.
The leaders were also able to welcome one prominent newcomer to the club, US President Joe Biden, determined to return America to the forefront on the world stage and unite allies in the face of the global influence of China and Russia.
The European Union is also represented by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Council President Charles Michel for member state government heads. Von der Leyen has been stressing the EU's role as a major exporter of vaccines.
Aid campaigners have called on G7 leaders to honour past promises, warning that failure to do so will jeopardise a landmark global climate change summit later this year.
On Friday they said rich nations had to deliver on a pledge of $100 billion (€82.50 billion) a year in financing to help poor countries overhaul their economies and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
On Friday UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stressed the world was on the "verge of the abyss” regarding climate change and said the leaders of developing economies need to urgently commit to net zero emissions by the middle of the century.
Although UK-EU tensions over Brexit have not overshadowed the G7, Boris Johnson met EU leaders on the summit sidelines on Saturday to address disagreements over the Northern Ireland Protocol. The post-Brexit trade arrangements have brought disruption to supplies and renewed tension between communities.
French President Emmanuel Macron warned the British prime minister to keep his word over Brexit accords to which he had signed up. Johnson called for "pragmatism and compromise" from the EU.
The G7 leaders also want to affirm their democratic values, even if that "will surely bring a confrontation with Russia, but also, in some regards, with China," German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Friday.