G7 Summit takeaways: The US is back on top, the Queen cut a cake with a sword, and world leaders promised 1 billion COVID-19 doses

(L-R) Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden, France's President Emmanuel Macron, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga attend a plenary session during G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall on June 13, 2021.
(L-R) Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden, France’s President Emmanuel Macron, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga attend a plenary session during G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall on June 13, 2021.

  • World leaders from the US, Italy, France, Japan, Canada, Germany, and the UK met this weekend for the G7 Summit.
  • The summit, made up of the world’s wealthiest large democracies and close allies, is designed to discuss economic and international policies.
  • Here are the biggest takeaways from the three-day event:
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Against the backdrop of the global pandemic, world leaders met in person for the first time since the coronavirus shut down travel.

(L-R) German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Queen Elizabeth II, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, President of the European Council Charles Michel and United States President Joe Biden pose for a group photo at a drinks reception for Queen Elizabeth II and G7 leaders at The Eden Project during the G7 Summit on June 11, 2021 in St Austell, Cornwall, England.
(L-R) German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Queen Elizabeth II, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, President of the European Council Charles Michel, and US President Joe Biden.

The seven world leaders — German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and US President Joe Biden — met on a seaside resort in Cornwall, England. 

It was the first time the heads of these countries met in person since the pandemic shut down travel more than a year ago. The G7 leaders last met in person in France in August 2019, nearly two years ago.

In addition to the seven countries normally present, others like South Africa, South Korea, India, and Australia received invitations to attend virtually the 47th Summit.

In the spirit of gathering and collaboration, the G7 leaders talked through strategies to end the coronavirus pandemic.

Boris Johnson
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson announced that the leaders would together donate at least 1 billion vaccine doses against the coronavirus to lower-income countries over the next year in a coordinated effort to end the pandemic in 2022. 

“Our international priority is to accelerate the rollout of safe and effective, accessible and affordable vaccines for the poorest countries, noting the role of extensive immunization as a global public good,” the leaders said in a statement published on Sunday. 

They promised to also help countries around the world develop technology that can manufacture and disseminate vaccines quicker.

When asked about the expected timeline to end the pandemic on a global scale, Biden said “it might take slightly longer” than 2022.

G7 leaders agree that the US is back on top.

Emmanuel Macron in Brussels
Emmanuel Macron, President of France speaks in Brussels on October 2, 2020.

Macron on Saturday signaled his confidence in the United States as an ally with Biden at the nation’s helm. When asked by reporters whether he thinks “America is back,” Biden gestured to Macron to answer the question. 

“Yes, definitely,” Macron said. “It’s great to have a US president who’s part of the club and very willing to cooperate. What you demonstrate is that leadership is partnership.”

Biden indicated his agreement. “The United States, I’ve said before, we’re back,” the US president said. “Things are going, I think, well, and we’re, as we say back in the States, we’re on the same page.”

Johnson on Thursday hailed Biden as “a big breath of fresh air.”

The Queen showed off her sword skills.

The Queen used a sword to cut a cake
Queen Elizabeth II attempts to cut a cake with a sword, lent to her by the Lord-Lieutenant of Cornwall, Edward Bolitho, to celebrate of the Big Lunch initiative at the Eden Project, near St Austell in southwest England on June 11, 2021.

The Queen of England borrowed a ceremonial sword to cut a cake on Friday. 

An aide informed her that there was a standard knife available to cut the cake. But the Queen insisted she use the sword.

“I know there is,” she told the aide. “This is more unusual.”

After the first slice using the sword, she then cut the rest of the cake with a regular knife.

World leaders single out Russia and China.

Biden Putin
President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are set to meet in Geneva on June 16.

The world leaders presented a united front against Russia and China, vowing to condemn human-rights abuses and political tactics that stray from their economic and international visions. 

Biden, for example, rebuked China for human-rights abuses. “I think China has to start to act more responsibly in terms of international norms on human rights and transparency,” he said. “Transparency matters across the board.”

In a press briefing, a senior US administration official said the six other leaders maintain “a very strong and shared foundation” in their approach to China. The seven leaders also promised to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Later, China clapped back, saying “the days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone.”

On Russia, Biden said US relations with Moscow have reached a “low point.” 

“Russia has engaged in activities which we believe are contrary to international norms, but they have also bitten off some real problems they’re going to have trouble chewing on,” Biden said.

Leaders agree on a plan to phase out gasoline cars.

Three G7 leaders sit at table
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (L) and US President Joe Biden (R) listen to Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a working session at the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall on June 12, 2021.

Aside from the coronavirus, G7 leaders focused on advancing climate change measures. 

Among them is a proposal to phase out gasoline and diesel cars. The leaders vowed to end “almost all direct government support” for fossil fuels and halt “all unabated coal as soon as possible.”

In an effort to extend this proposal beyond the G7, world leaders agreed to allocate $2 billion to help developing countries to seek out other options besides coal, a statement from the White House said.

Despite the heavy focus away from fossil fuels, world leaders, including Biden, did not set a concrete date for the end of coal use, which contributes directly to global warming.

Biden met the Queen for the first time as president.

Joe Biden and Jill Biden meet the Queen at Windsor Castle
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden stood beside the Queen outside of Windsor Castle on Sunday.

Biden and Queen Elizabeth II met on Friday, marking his first time engaging with the Queen in person as president. The Queen has met every president since Harry S. Truman, with the exception of Lyndon B. Johnson.

At the end of the Summit on Sunday, Biden and first lady Jill had tea with the Queen at Windsor Castle.

Biden met the Queen for the first time as a US senator in the 1980s.

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The US reportedly spied on Angela Merkel and other top European politicians with Denmark’s help

Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

  • Denmark reportedly helped the US access the calls and texts of senior European officials, including Angela Merkel.
  • Denmark held an internal investigation into its partnership with the NSA between 2012 and 2014.
  • The country’s public broadcaster reported the findings of the investigation, citing nine unnamed sources.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Denmark’s foreign intelligence unit helped the US spy on European officials, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to a report by Danish public broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR) on Sunday.

In 2015, the Danish Defence Intelligence Service (FE) conducted an internal investigation – code-named “Operation Dunhammer” – into its partnership with the US National Security Agency (NSA), according to the report.

The investigation found that the NSA used Danish information cables to spy on senior officials in Sweden, Norway, France, and Germany between 2012 to 2014, according to DR’s report. The report cited nine unnamed sources with classified information from FE.

The NSA accessed calls, texts, and chat messages to and from officials’ telephones, the sources told DR.

In addition to Merkel, the NSA spied on former German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and former German opposition leader Peer Steinbrück, according to the DR report.

The FE and the NSA didn’t provide comment on the DR report.

A spokesperson for the German chancellery told Reuters it only became aware of the NSA spying allegations when journalists asked them about the report, and declined to comment further.

Leaks by former NSA employee Edward Snowden alleged that the NSA tapped Merkel’s phone and spied on other countries. Snowden tweeted on Sunday that President Joe Biden was “deeply involved in this scandal the first time around” as he was vice-President when the reported spying took place.

Insider contacted the White House and the NSA for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

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Germany is not happy with Biden’s support for waiving COVID-19 vaccine patents, predicting ‘severe complications’

merkel vaccine
German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

  • Biden’s support for waiving COVID-19 vaccine patents has had a mixed reaction from EU countries.
  • A spokesperson for the German government said it would cause “severe complications,” per Bloomberg.
  • Experts have said lifting vaccine patents may not be that effective in easing global shortages.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Germany pushed back Thursday against President Joe Biden’s support for a patent waiver on COVID-19 vaccines, one of the first rich nations to explicitly oppose the move.

A spokesperson for the German government said waiving patents would cause “severe complications” for vaccine production in an emailed statement to Bloomberg.

The US announced its support for the move on Wednesday, following pressure from more than 100 developing-world countries at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Several EU countries and the UK had been against the move. Those nations previously blocked discussion of a patent waiver at the WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) council, according to Foreign Policy.

The same countries – which have some of the world’s best vaccine supplies and largest pharmaceutical companies – had a mixed reaction to the US announcement.

A spokesperson for the German federal government said Thursday: “The US suggestion for the lifting of patent protection for COVID-19 vaccines has significant implications for vaccine production as a whole,” according to Deutsche Welle (DW).

“The protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and must remain so in the future,’ the statement said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a news conference at Government Buildings in Dublin, Ireland January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Lorraine O'Sullivan
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the EU Commission, told an online conference that the bloc is “ready to discuss” the US proposals, DW reported.

“Our priority is to ramp up production to achieve global vaccination,” she wrote in a tweet. “At the same time we are open to discuss any other effective and pragmatic solution. In this context we are ready to assess how the US proposal could help achieve that objective.”

French President Emmanuel Macron had in the past objected to the waiver. But after the US announcement he changed tack, and said he was “absolutely in favor,” France24 reported.

A French government spokesperson sounded a note of caution about how helpful a waiver might be, however. The spokesperson argued that there are more important problems in vaccinating the world, namely limited production capacity and ingredients, Reuters reported.

The official added: “I would remind you that it is the United States that has not exported a single dose to other countries, and is now talking about lifting the patents.”

The temporary suspension of vaccine patents is just one piece of the puzzle, and would not by itself solve the world’s shortages, as Insider’s Allison DeAngelis has reported.

Pharmaceutical companies have long argued that removing patents diminishes the incentive for companies to take the financial risks of developing new treatments in the first place.

Beyond that, there is a great deal of expertise and technology needed to boost production beyond the patented information itself, as one expert told DeAngelis.

“Opening the patents is like disclosing a high quality chef’s shopping list,” said Jacob Becraft, CEO of mRNA startup Strand Therapeutics. “You can figure out exactly where they get their truffles from, their high quality pork. But you’re never going to replicate their menu.”

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel was nonplussed by Biden’s announcement, saying it would not affect the company’s bottom line.

“I didn’t lose a minute of sleep over the news during the night,” he said during Moderna’s first-quarter earnings statement.

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Obama says his ideal group text of world leaders would include the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, and Angela Merkel

pope francis 2020
Pope Francis pictured on November 22, 2020.

  • Obama said his ideal group text of world leaders would include some of his closest presidential allies.
  • Obama told the Skimm it would have the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, and Angela Merkel.
  • He also said he may include Queen Elizabeth II due to her dry sense of humor.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former President Barack Obama says his ideal hypothetical group chat of world leaders would include Pope Francis, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“The Dalai Lama, I love that guy, Pope Francis, a genuinely good man,” Obama said in an interview with the Skimm. Obama also said that he would maybe include Queen Elizabeth II “because she has a drier sense of humor than people think.”

Obama met with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, multiple times during and after his presidency, including welcoming him to the White House in 2015 and meeting with him in 2016 over the Chinese government’s objections. The Dalai Lama lives in exile in India.

The former president hosted Pope Francis at the White House in 2015, a visit to Washington where the Pope also made a rare address to a joint session of the United States Congress.

“I was just commenting that I noticed that all of you are much better-behaved than usual,” Obama joked to the White House press corps in the Oval Office while sitting aside the Pope.

Obama had a close diplomatic relationship with Merkel, who shared his cerebral approach to issues and largely level-headed disposition, in contrast to the far rockier and more tense relationship Merkel brokered with former President Donald Trump.

During Obama’s presidency, the US and Germany worked together on important global issues – including responding to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, tackling ISIS and the refugee crisis, and recovering from the global financial meltdown.

“You have been a trusted partner throughout my entire presidency – longer than any world leader – and I value your judgment,” Obama told Merkel in April 2016 towards the end of his presidency. “I thank you for your commitment to our alliance and to the values and human rights for which we stand. And I’m grateful for our personal friendship.”

Obama also carried on the US’ “special relationship” with the Royal Family.

In 2009, Obama gifted the Queen an iPod with historical video footage of her previous visits to the US going back to the 1950s, as well as his 2009 inaugural address and 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention.

And in her 2018 memoir “Becoming,” former First Lady Michelle Obama described accidentally violating royal protocol by putting her arm around the queen as a show of affection and support. She said, however, that Her Majesty didn’t seem offended and reciprocated the gesture back.

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Angela Merkel says Twitter’s decision to ban Trump is a threat to free speech

Merkel Trump
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposes Twitter’s decision to block President Trump’s Twitter account.
  • A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel argued that lawmakers rather than private companies should decide on the limits to freedom of speech.
  • “The right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance,” Merkel’s chief spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday.
  • The company said it had banned the president’s account because he risked inciting further violence after a pro-Trump mob of protestors stormed the US Capitol.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticised Twitter for blocking US President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, arguing that lawmakers rather than private tech companies should decide on the limits to freedom of speech.

“The right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance,” Merkel’s chief spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday at a regular news conference, in comments reported by Reuters.

“Given that, the chancellor considers it problematic that the president’s accounts have been permanently suspended,” he said.

Twitter on Friday permanently suspended President’s Trump’s Twitter account, which he used dozens of times a day to communicate with over 70 million followers and which helped him to capture the Republican nomination and the presidency in 2016.

The company said it had banned the president’s account because he risked inciting further violence days after a group of pro-Trump protestors stormed the US Capitol where lawmakers were gathered to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory.

Facebook and Instagram also blocked the president’s accounts, but Twitter’s decision will likely prove particularly impactful because it was the president’s main communication tool.

Merkel’s intervention highlights a growing unease among European countries about Twitter’s decision on Friday to permanently suspend President Trump’s account, with the governments of France and the United Kingdom among those which questioned the decision. 

Clement Beaune, France’s junior minister for European Union Affairs, said such decisions should be taken by governments rather than chief executives.

“This should be decided by citizens, not by a CEO,” Beaune told Bloomberg TV this week. “There needs to be public regulation of big online platforms.”

Matt Hancock, a UK minister, said on Sunday that the decision by social media companies to ban Trump’s accounts raised a “very big question” in terms of regulation because it meant they were making editorial decisions.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny called it “an unacceptable act of censorship.”

“This precedent will be exploited by the enemies of freedom of speech around the world,” he tweeted.

“In Russia as well. Every time when they need to silence someone, they will say: ‘this is just common practice, even Trump got blocked on Twitter.'”

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