FALMOUTH, England – President Joe Biden and leaders of some of the world’s wealthiest nations spent Saturday formulating a strategy to counter China’s growing influence and looking for ways to avoid another global health crisis like COVID-19.
And at the end of the day? There was a barbecue on the beach.
Saturday was Day 2 of the Group of Seven summit in Cornwall, England. The gathering is the leaders' first in-person meeting since the start of the coronavirus crisis, and much of the discussions have focused on what British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called “the most wretched pandemic the world has faced for at least our lifetimes.”
Here are five key moments from Saturday:
‘Roots’ of the pandemic
A session on health policy focused on addressing the root causes of the COVID-19 pandemic on a global level. G-7 leaders were joined at that discussion by their counterparts from South Korea, South Africa, Australia and India, the secretary general of the United Nations and other leaders of international organizations.
The leaders were expected to issue what they are calling the "Carbis Bay Declaration," which will include a series of recommendations and steps the G-7 countries will take to prevent a future pandemic.
Those steps include cutting the time taken to develop and license vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for any future disease to under 100 days; a commitment to reinforce global surveillance networks and genomic sequencing capacity; and support for reforming and strengthening the World Health Organization.
Johnson said G-7 leaders would be asked to donate 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries over the next year. Ahead of the summit, Biden pledged to donate 500 million doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine to nearly 100 lower income countries and the African Union. Johnson said his country would gift more than 100 million doses, likely of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
China and the West
The White House says it is not seeking to make China the "overriding issue" while Biden is in Europe. But Beijing's economic development model, its human rights record in Xinjiang, and its lack of transparency on a range of issues from the environment to labor standards dominated discussions Saturday.
G-7 leaders launched a new global infrastructure initiative called "Build Back Better for the World." It is being framed as an alternative to China's "Belt and Road Initiative," a massive multitrillion-dollar development project than spans dozens of countries and whose overall idea is to update and reinvent the ancient Silk Road that connected China to Europe and beyond. China has been helping finance, often through predatory loans, international railways, highways, ports and other major infrastructure as part of its initiative.
With their new initiative, the G-7 leaders expect to collectively capitalize hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries in the coming years.
"This is about providing an affirmative, positive, alternative vision for the world than that that is presented by China," the White House said of its plan.
On Monday, Biden will travel to Brussels for meeting of the NATO military alliance, and for the first time NATO countries will address the security challenge from China directly in a communiqué, according to the White House.
Arms around the world, and each other
Biden wrapped his arm around French President Emmanuel Macron as they chatted amiably on the sidelines of the summit Friday. And Macron returned the favor, reflecting what appears to be a warm and friendly relationship between the leaders.
On Saturday, Biden and Macron had a more formal opportunity to rekindle their apparent flourishing bromance as they met for a bilateral meeting.
“The sun is shining, we’re on this beach, I’m well,” Biden told reporters ahead of the meeting as he and Macron sat next to each other against an aquamarine backdrop. “And I’m with the president of France. That makes me even feel better.”
Macron, citing the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, said what is needed among the G-7 leaders is cooperation, which he said Biden is providing.
"I think it’s great to have a U.S. president part of the club and very willing to cooperate," he said. "And I think that what you demonstrate is that leadership is partnership.”
Among the topics covered during their meeting: climate issues and the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, reforming the international tax system, and other foreign policy priorities such as China and Russia.
Asked if he agreed with Biden that America is back, Macron replied: "Definitely."
Protests on land and sea
Protesters aiming to disrupt the three-day summit have been out in full force. Hundreds of demonstrators blocked roads and marched through the streets Friday as the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion mounted a protest against what it said was the G-7 nations’ failure to respect global climate commitments made in Paris in 2015.
On Saturday, the protesters headed out to sea, among other protest actions.
An environmental group called Surfers Against Sewage staged a protest off of Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth. Surfers grabbed surfboards, kayaks, snorkels and other gear and headed out on the water to call attention to threats to the oceans and climate.
Extinction Rebellion organized a soccer game between fans and environmentalists. But the match, which took place a day after the UEFA Euro soccer championship kicked off across Europe, came with a twist: the referee was a banker.
"The games are rigged to illustrate how corporate greed and finance are a corrupting influence not only in (soccer) but, more significantly, in climate policy," a statement released by the event's organizers said.
How do you follow dinner with the queen?
With a beach barbecue, no less.
Friday night, the G-7 leaders and their families dined with Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the Royal Family on spiced melon, turbot roasted on the bone and English strawberry pavlova. Saturday's dinner was a less formal affair.
Carrie Johnson, wife of Boris Johnson, hosted a barbecue at Carbis Bay beach for the leaders and their families. The dinner fare included scallops, Curgurrell crab claws and Portscatho mackerel, followed by sirloin and Newlyn lobster.
Afterward, the VIPs were offered baked brie, hot buttered rum and toasted marshmallows around firepits on the sand. And to drink (it is, after all, the queen's official birthday): Cornish sparkling wine, German Riesling, Australian Shiraz, Cornish beer and hedge row fizz cocktail.