The Group of 20 (G20) summit hosted by Saudi Arabia closed on Sunday (November 22). Leaders of various countries issued a communiqué after the online meeting stating that they will “spare no effort” to ensure that everyone in the world can “affordably and fairly receive” the diagnosis and vaccination of the new coronavirus.
However, the communiqué did not specify the amount of new funds expected to be contributed to achieving this goal.
U.S. President Trump attended some of the meetings, emphasizing different views from his allies. Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed his willingness to strengthen cooperation with other countries on the vaccine issue. He proposed to use an international “health code” to guarantee access, which caused controversy.
The fair distribution of vaccines is not specific enough
While many countries are still suffering from the health and economic troubles caused by the new crown virus, this summit was held mainly around how to solve these problems, including discussing how to ensure that the new crown vaccine is distributed at an affordable price in poorer countries.
The leaders of the G20 Group expressed their full support for cooperation in the purchase and distribution of vaccines. They stated in the communiqué, “We have mobilized resources to address the current financing needs of the global health sector to support the research, development, production and distribution of safe and effective new coronavirus diagnosis, treatment and vaccines.”
The communique also stated, “We will spare no effort to ensure that all people can afford and fair access to these services, which is consistent with the commitment of all members to encourage innovation.”
However, the outside world criticized these statements as being too broad and lacking specific solutions.
So far, countries have invested US$10 billion in the Global Vaccination Program (Covax) under the World Health Organization. This plan aims to ensure that vaccines are not patented by the richest countries. The European Union stated that it still needs to fill the US$4.5 billion funding gap this year.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday that progress on the equitable distribution of vaccines is still slow. Some rich countries have reached agreements with pharmaceutical companies, but there are still no agreements for poor countries. She is worried that “no action has yet been taken.” .
Trump and allies disagree
The outside world was concerned about whether US President Trump, who refused to admit defeat, would attend this G20 summit. Trump eventually attended part of the meeting. According to US media reports, he ran to play golf at other times.
Trump said in a video conference on Saturday that American citizens will be the first to receive a vaccine against the new coronavirus. This is in line with his consistent “America First” policy, but it is different from the priority given to frontline medical staff and vulnerable groups that many medical experts and leaders of other countries have called for.
Trump announced his withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WTO) in July this year and threatened to cut off the organization’s largest source of funding. This move contradicts the support of the US allies for the organization.
The G20 leaders stated in the communiqué that they support strengthening the WTO’s “overall efficiency in coordinating and supporting the global response to the epidemic and the core efforts of member states.”
Xi Jinping’s mention of international “health code” causes controversy
Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed in a video speech that he is willing to strengthen cooperation with other countries in vaccine research and development, production, and distribution.
Xi Jinping said, “We will fulfill our commitments to provide help and support to other developing countries, and strive to make vaccines a public product that is accessible and affordable to people of all countries.”
China is actually distributing its own vaccines. The authorities announced last week that nearly 1 million people had been vaccinated with a vaccine produced by China National Pharmaceutical Group Co., Ltd. However, outside warnings have failed to confirm the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine developed by this company.
Xi Jinping also emphasized at the summit that the global industrial chain and supply chain should be restored under the premise of preventing and controlling the epidemic. He proposed to use the internationally recognized “health code” mechanism to realize personnel exchanges and goods circulation.
Xi Jinping said, “China proposes to establish an international mutual recognition mechanism for health codes based on nucleic acid test results in the form of internationally accepted QR codes, and hopes that more countries will participate.”
“Health Code” is a type of mobile phone QR code that can be scanned to obtain the latest health and travel information of an individual, ensuring that the travel is allowed without the virus. During the epidemic, this technology was widely used in mainland China and played an important role in controlling the epidemic.
However, outsiders have widely questioned that the “health code” may violate human rights and personal privacy. Hong Kong, which is separated by a river from mainland China and has implemented the “one country, two systems” policy, has not yet been able to establish a “health code” mechanism with the mainland after months of discussions.
Climate change issues
The summit also discussed the topic of climate change. The leaders participating in the online summit emphasized that the development of a circular carbon economy to manage emissions and reduce the impact of climate change is very important for achieving sustainable development in the future.
Xi Jinping said at the meeting that the G20 must play a leading role and make every effort to promote the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change. He reiterated that China will fulfill its commitments, including carbon emissions peaking in 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.
Xi Jinping emphasized three aspects: increasing efforts to address climate change; deepening the transition to clean energy; building an ecosystem that respects nature.
Trump, who also attended the video conference, once again lashed out at the “Paris Agreement”, describing the agreement as an attempt to bring down the US economy rather than saving the planet. He reiterated that the decision to withdraw from this agreement was to protect American workers.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made a comment on the sidelines of the summit, saying that Japan will lead international efforts to tackle climate change.
Yoshihide Suga said: “Tackling climate change will not limit economic growth. We will lead the international community to achieve a carbon-free world.” Japan’s goal is to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, which is one of the main policy priorities of the Yoshihide Suga cabinet. .