The United States led calls at a G20 meeting Tuesday for greater global cooperation in light of the coronavirus crisis as China insisted that multilateralism should not just be a slogan.
Italy welcomed foreign ministers of the Group of 20 major economies to the southern city of Matera for their first in-person talks since the start of the pandemic that has claimed nearly four million lives worldwide.
In a sharp reversal in tone from the previous US administration, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for empowering multilateral institutions to defeat Covid-19, tackle the widening global inequality and step up the battle to arrest climate change.
He pointed to the US promise of $2 billion for Covax, the UN-backed initiative that aims to vaccinate low-income countries, and President Joe Biden’s pledge to manufacture and donate 500 million Pfizer doses in addition to 80 million doses from US stocks.
Biden has also loosened some export restrictions and patents, a reversal from his predecessor Donald Trump’s “America First” philosophy that has upset the pharmaceutical industry.
Biden’s vaccine initiative — and Blinken’s readiness to show up to meetings — are designed in part to show strong US leadership in the face of a rising China, whose growing assertiveness has been identified by the new US administration as the top global challenge.
Appearing virtually at the Matera meeting, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi did not name the United States but suggested ulterior motives in the rhetoric as he called on the G20 to show “true multilateralism”. AFP