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G-7 Summit: Leaders Discussed Building A Fairer Post-Pandemic Economy


Leaders from the Group of Seven - that is seven of the world's wealthiest democracies - are meeting on England's southwest coast this weekend. They spent the afternoon discussing how to build back a fairer post-pandemic economy. That's just one of the many issues they're working on at the summit, the first of its kind in nearly two years. NPR's Frank Langfitt is following the meeting in the English county of Cornwall. He's right outside one of the venues for the summit. Hey, Frank.


CHANG: Hi. So let's talk about what this fairer economy would look like. Like, what are the leaders' biggest concerns at this point as economies begin to recover?

LANGFITT: Yeah, I think the big concern is, as we all know, the pandemic only exacerbated inequalities. We saw it with, obviously, people of color in the United States, also here in the U.K., frontline workers, all the way to the poorer countries that are now struggling to get vaccines. And so British Prime Minister Boris Johnson - he's hosting the G-7. He says this is an opportunity to fix a persistent problem. And this is how he put it to other leaders today.


PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON: It is vital that we don't repeat the mistake of the last great crisis, the last great economic recession in 2008, when the recovery was not uniform across all parts of society. And I think what's gone wrong with this pandemic or what risks being a lasting scar is that, I think, the inequalities may be entrenched.

CHANG: Now, just to remind everybody, the last G-7 meeting was in 2019 in another coastal town, Biarritz, in France. You covered that summit. I know it's still really early for this year's summit, but are you already seeing differences between the two meetings?

LANGFITT: Absolutely, Ailsa. First, former President Donald Trump isn't here. And he was often at these events, a center of attention in a negative way, disagreed with the allies here on issues everything from climate change, the Iran nuclear deal. And as we've seen, he could be disruptive. I remember back in 2018, he actually left in a huff in a dispute with the host then. That was Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trump wanted to hold the G-7 summit last year, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel - she declined for safety reasons, and then Trump canceled it.

In Joe Biden, you, of course, have a very different personality. He's far more supportive of traditional allies. And I've got to say, just today, as people were meeting, the atmosphere seemed more relaxed than it did back in France a couple of years ago. They're meeting in a place called Carbis Bay. It's a small cove, turquoise waters, really beautiful. And walking up the beach this afternoon, Biden just greeted Boris Johnson with a grin and an elbow bump.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Everybody in the water.

CHANG: All right. So a very different atmosphere this time around, very different characters. But beyond the personalities, Frank, what about the substance that they're planning to discuss compared to what was on the agenda in past meetings?

LANGFITT: It's very different. I think the world is a very different place. And it feels higher stakes now. The pandemic, of course, a once-in-a-century watershed event. Nations were - have been evaluated on how they responded, death counts. And Biden's view of the world is different than Trump's. He sees a competition, really, between the U.S. and China, democracy and authoritarianism. And he's looking for help from these allies for all - on all kinds of issues, everything from cybersecurity to market access. And, you know, China has been sending vaccines to other countries, hoping to win friends. And yesterday, Biden and Johnson pledged more than 600 million doses to nations that have been struggling to vaccinate their populations.

CHANG: Right. Well, the G-7 meeting is also a rare opportunity for all of these leaders to just socialize, get to know each other.


CHANG: Do you have any sense of what they're up to tonight?

LANGFITT: Yeah, they - reception and dinner with the queen and members of the royal family. It was - she's, of course, the longest-serving monarch here, a great soft-power asset. And they had a very English meal. It was turbot caught off the coast here, Cornish cheese. And dessert was English strawberry pavlova.

CHANG: Yum, yum, yum. That is NPR's Frank Langfitt. Thank you, Frank.

LANGFITT: Great to talk, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.