UK urges G7 to take action on global post-Covid fallout

US also makes clear break from Trump era at online conference with multilateral commitment

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak talks during a TV interview in London, Britain November 22, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo

The UK pressed fellow G7 members on Friday to tackle the global fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

It also urged action on climate change and digital taxation, as it outlined its priorities for the elite economic body.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak and Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey hosted their counterparts from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States at an online conference in a lead-up to a summit in Britain later this year.

The G7's first gathering since Joe Biden became US president included Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who made a clear break with the former administration of Donald Trump.

The G7 must ensure that international financial institutions have the right tools to equip and enable vulnerable countries to respond to the pandemic

"Secretary Yellen emphasised the commitment of the Biden administration to multilateralism to solve global issues," the US Treasury Department said.

Washington "places a high priority on deepening our international engagement and strengthening our alliances", it added, as the new administration attempts to move past four years of Mr Trump's "America First" agenda.

Britain's finance ministry said the talks involved an exchange of views about the best way to bounce back from the impact of Covid-19.

"The G7 must ensure that international financial institutions have the right tools to equip and enable vulnerable countries to respond to the pandemic," it said.

A French source told AFP that the world's leading economies would consider whether to use the International Monetary Fund to mobilise $500 billion in coronavirus aid to the poorest nations.

Mr Sunak said there was a "moral, health and economic case for rapid and fair vaccine distribution across the world", given fears of growing "vaccine nationalism" and rows over supplies.

The G7 should "take the lead in shaping support for vulnerable countries in 2021", his office said.

G7 leaders including Mr Biden are due to meet at a seaside retreat in Cornwall in south-west England on June 11-13, after last year's meeting in the US was shelved because of the pandemic.

Climate to be centre of agenda at COP26 

Britain is also hosting the COP26 UN conference on climate change in the Scottish city of Glasgow in November, with hopes of fresh commitments towards targets for net-zero carbon emissions.

Mr Sunak urged his counterparts "to make climate and nature considerations a central part of all economic and financial decision-making in 2021", according to his office.

He also "stressed the importance of working together to support a smooth and effective transition of the group's economies to net-zero carbon emissions."

Britain took on the rotating G7 presidency last month with hopes for greater US co-operation after Mr Biden restored the US to the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organisation in a series of executive of orders.

His first 17 presidential orders can be read here.

Ms Yellen also repeated the need for further fiscal support "to promote a robust and lasting [economic] recovery", with Washington locked in partisan bickering over a fresh stimulus package.