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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Experts say it’s unlikely COVID-19 passports will come about: ‘The vaccine passport could wind up being irrelevant’

passport
Robert F. Balazik/Shutterstock

  • Experts say it’s unlikely an international COVID-19 passport travel system will come about.
  • They have flagged privacy, inequality, politics, and long-term need as the main problems.
  • Still, the travel industry is banking on a system to allow international travel to resume.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

COVID-19 passports have been hailed as the key to opening up the global economy, but some privacy and health experts doubt they’ll ever be widely accepted.

Plans to require COVID-19 passports for international travel or even entry to large venues or work offices may fumble, as critics say there’s a wide range of issues – from privacy and inequity, to continuity and longevity – standing in the way. But airlines, which took a trillion-dollar hit because of the pandemic, are banking on some kind of digital credential to get people flying internationally again.

The most likely outcome, said Bryan Del Monte, president of the Aviation Agency and a former director at the US Department of Defense, is that health passports will likely be needed only if you plan to travel internationally, but they won’t be “as big a deal as everyone thinks.”

But by the time a system is agreed upon and created, this could be a “moot” point, he told Insider.

“The vaccine passport could wind up being irrelevant because by the time everyone gets inoculated, do you really need one?” he said, noting that travelers don’t provide proof of vaccination against measles or rubella upon entering a foreign country.

Even so, these health passports have begun rolling out as proposals or beta tests, and some have even gone live in various markets across the globe.

The European Union proposed the “Digital Green Certificate,” a vaccine passport which would allow travel to 27 member countries, if approved. China, Israel, the UAE, and the Philippines are among other countries that have launched versions of their own, as well.

In the US, the White House is reportedly working on a vaccination passport that could require proof of immunization prior to traveling or entering crowded venues. And New York was the first state to launch one that would show a person’s proof of vaccination before entering large gatherings, like a basketball game or a wedding.

Nobody is talking about the ‘politics that go into this’

The World Health Organization, and even airlines, have advocated against requiring vaccination for travel. The main reasons are data on how effective vaccines are at preventing transmission plus the limited global supply, according to the WHO.

“If access to vaccine is (unequal), then inequity and unfairness can be further branded into the system,” Mike Ryan, the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme executive director, said on March 8.

In February, the WHO said wealthy countries with just 16% of the world’s population bought up 60% of the available COVID-19 vaccine supply. It flagged the inequality in the global immunization effort, but also said the imbalance could cause the virus to continue spreading and mutating to more dangerous variants.

In the US alone, the vaccine rollout has been disproportionate among minorities and poorer populations, who have received fewer doses of the COVID-19 vaccine despite often being at greater risk for contracting the disease.

Read more: COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker: AstraZeneca’s shot proves safe and effective, and is headed to the FDA

Some have also said international COVID-19 passports becoming standardized and globally adopted could be too big a task to accomplish.

“The technology to make this happen is very difficult, but the even more difficult part that no one’s talking about is the politics that go into this,” said Bryce Conway, consumer advocate and founder at 10xTravel, a company that helps more than 70,000 travelers navigate loyalty programs and credit card points.

In the US, for example, some Republican lawmakers have dubbed the concept of vaccine passports as dystopian.

“We can’t even agree how to row the boat in this country,” Del Monte said. “This is not going to roll out quickly.”

Internationally, if countries approve certain vaccines and not others, some immunized travelers may still be barred from entering. China, for example, has said travelers receiving its vaccine will have an easier time entering the country, and many countries have said Russia’s shot isn’t effective enough to qualify.

Conway said the most likely scenario, if a COVID-19 passport is adopted, is that various groups of countries will agree on how to accept travelers from one another.

“I don’t think you’re going to have a multinational, huge system where everyone’s on it and that’s the one standard that’s used,” he said

But Laura Hoffner, chief of staff at risk consulting firm Concentric, said the secret to creating a COVID-19 passport is getting the US to lay out protocols. Because once that happens, “the world will most likely follow suit,” she said.

On March 12, Jeff Zients, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said the private sector and others have already begun working on how to prove vaccination.

“Our role is to help ensure that any solutions in this area should be simple, free, open source, accessible to people both digitally and on paper, and designed from the start to protect people’s privacy,” he said.

Still, the airline industry has asked the White House for specific guidelines on a health passport, so people can get back to flying, as international travel has plummeted 85% because of the pandemic, according to Perry Flint, head of the International Air Transport Association’s US corporate communications.

“We’re ready to get going again,” Flint said.

In a statement to Business Insider, the White House said it is “leading an interagency effort regarding vaccine verification,” but didn’t give any details on a timeline or how a passport would work.

‘We can do all of this with little pieces of paper’

Airline trade groups such as IATA and Airlines for America are advocating for a digital passport that either verifies someone’s immunization to COVID-19 or a negative test result, as they say outright mandating the vaccine could discriminate against those who can’t or refuse to get the vaccine.

While waiting for guidance from the government, IATA has begun testing its own digital passport, called the Travel Pass. Doctors can send test results or proof of vaccination to a person, who can link that information to the Travel Pass app prior to flying. Then travelers show the app to an agent, along with their actual passport and ticket.

50883970881_2e878b6c87_o
The IATA Travel Pass is currently being tested by multiple international airlines. Courtesy of IATA.

These digital passports come with another hurdle, though: maintaining privacy.

Immunity passport apps are fraught with privacy flaws and pose big ethical problems, according to a report from security research company Top10VPN, which analyzed 65 digital health certificate apps operating around the world and found 82% had inadequate privacy policies.

Jon Callas at the Electronic Frontier Foundation said the high-tech solution comes with too high a price tag and too high a risk for invasion of privacy. “We can do all of this with little pieces of paper,” he said.

Checking thousands of vaccination papers or test results would be a bottleneck to international travel, Flint said, saying the world shouldn’t use a “20th Century standard” when many things, such as tickets, have already gone digital.

For years, some countries have already taken on the task of checking proof-of-vaccination papers against yellow fever. This has become known as the “yellow paper,” and could be as easily applied to COVID-19, said Callas.

But the yellow card is “not safe; it’s not easy,” Caryn Seidman-Becker, chief executive officer of CLEAR, said at the Economic Club of New York on March 30. CLEAR, a biometric identity platform used at airports, has created its own “digital health credential,” called Health Pass that Seidman-Becker said will make travel “frictionless.”

But with regard to digital credentials, Callas said, “I don’t see why a paper form isn’t good enough. Every immigration form that I do, I sign it at the bottom, and say under penalty of perjury I assert this is true, and I don’t see why, ‘I got my COVID-19 vaccine’ isn’t just another box to tick.”

“They’re trying to sell digital passports,” he said “The people who are advocating this are the ones who want the rest of us to pay for that.”

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Justin Trudeau looks forward to working with President Biden: ‘It’s great to see America re-engage’

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference at Rideau Cottage, as efforts continue to help slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada June 22, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable
Canada’s PM Trudeau attends a news conference in Ottawa.

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested he’s looking forward to working with President Joe Biden.
  • Speaking on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” in an episode that will air Sunday, Trudeau said, “It’s great to see America re-engage.”
  • “That need to work closely as neighbors continues,” Trudeau said. “But now it continues with an administration with whom we have a little more in common.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated he’s looking forward to fortifying the country’s relationship with the United States now that President Joe Biden is in office. 

“It’s great to see America re-engage” on the global sphere again, Trudeau said in early remarks from a forthcoming interview with NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

When asked by “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd about global policy initiatives Trudeau expects the Biden administration to push forward, Trudeau said Canada and the United States will have to “work together” on several issues, including climate change and solidifying the middle class. 

“And of course as a Canadian, I believe that we all need to work together in a more active way, and I’m glad to see the new administration – this is something I spoke with President Biden about directly – it’s great to see America re-engage,” Trudeau said.

“I think certainly there were things that were more challenging under the previous administration in terms of moving the dial in the right direction on the international stage,” he continued. “But at the same time, you know, we all have democracies that go in different directions from time to time.” 

Additionally, the coronavirus pandemic continues to be a major concern and a point of unity between Canada and the United States, Trudeau said. 

“The approach that the president is taking on COVID right now much more aligns with where Canada has been for quite a while, grounded in science, grounded in protection of people as the best way to protect the economy, and understanding that, that being there to support people is absolutely essential so that we can get through this as quickly as possible,” he said.

The relationship between the United States and Canada frayed during the years of former President Donald Trump’s tenure. 

Trump mocked Trudeau in private and in public, calling him “weak” and “very dishonest.” Trudeau was once caught on a hot mic laughing at the former president

In an attempt to pressure Trudeau into revising the North American Free Trade Agreement, Trump threatened to hit Canadian cars and auto parts with tariffs

And former trade advisor Peter Navarro said in 2018 that there’s a “special place in hell” for Trudeau. 

Trudeau spoke positively of some aspects of the NAFTA agreement between Canada and the United States, saying the renegotiation “helped.”

“We were able to get them to remove some of the steel and aluminum tariffs that they brought in. And we were able to work together on a number of things” with the Trump administration, Trudeau said on “Meet the Press.” “So obviously that need to work closely as neighbors continues, but now it continues with an administration with whom we have a little more in common, perhaps.”

Trudeau’s interview on “Meet the Press” is expected to air Sunday. 

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President-elect Joe Biden plans to issue an executive order canceling the Keystone XL pipeline permit, report says

FILE PHOTO: People protest against President Donald Trump's executive order fast-tracking the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 10, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
People protest against President Donald Trump’s executive order fast-tracking the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines in Los Angeles.

  • President-elect Joe Biden will issue an executive order on his first day in office to rescind the Keystone XL pipeline project.
  • The Keystone XL is part of a multi-phase construction project aimed at creating a direct oil pipeline to the US from the oil sands of Alberta.
  • President Barack Obama had previously rejected the project because of the environmental threat the pipeline would create to native species and lands.
  • President Donald Trump fought during his term to get the project in gear, but had little success in countering US court rulings on it. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President-elect Joe Biden plans on canceling the controversial Keystone XL pipeline permit via executive order on his first day of office, sources told CBC News

According to CBC, the order was part of a larger planned list of executive actions meant to reverse some of President Donald Trump’s key policies. They include re-joining the Paris Climate Accord and reversing the Muslim travel ban Trump instituted in his first days in office. Biden also plans on instituting a 100-day mask-wearing mandate. 

“These executive actions will deliver relief to the millions of Americans that are struggling in the face of these crises,” Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, said in the memo released over the weekend seen by the AP. “President-elect Biden will take action – not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration – but also to start moving our country forward.”

Insider has reached out to the Biden transition team for further comment.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline has been in development for more than ten years, and was approved by the Canadian National Energy Board in 2010. As planned, it would be a 1,179-mile pipeline running from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska, carrying more than 800,000 barrels of oil a day. 

But the project failed to get off the ground during President Barack Obama’s administration. Obama balked at the plan, arguing that the environmental devastation the pipeline would cause would be too high a price to pay.

Read more: At one end of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, there is a scene you must see to believe

“America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action on climate change,” Obama said in 2015. “Frankly, approving that project would have undercut that global leadership, and that is the biggest risk we face: not acting.”

When Trump entered office in 2017, he almost immediately revived conversation around the pipeline, fast-tracking the project because he said it would create nearly 30,000 US jobs, a number the Washington Post disputed at the time, and ABC News noted that the vast majority of those roles would be temporary.
 

Environmental lobbyists were able to successfully stanch the project for several years, and by 2020, enthusiasm for the project had begun to wane. In June 2020, Trump took the Keystone XL case to the Supreme Court to dispute a lower court ruling that prevented work on the pipeline to continue because of the environmental damage it was causing. The Supreme Court sent the case back down to the lower courts. 

Read more: Keystone XL does not make sense. 

The reported rescission of the Keystone XL permit is among several climate change-related changes Biden’s team plans to make in the early days of his administration. 

Jason Kenney, the premier of Alberta, said in a statement posted to Twitter he was concerned that rescinding the permit would “kill jobs on both sides of the border, weaken the critically important Canada-US relationship, and undermine US national security by making the United States more dependent on OPEC oil imports in the future.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that he would press for a continuation of the pipeline project with the new administration.

“It has been a long position of mine that we need to get our resources to new markets safely and securely, and that’s why I’ve always advocated for the Keystone XL pipeline,” Trudeau said in a May 2020 press conference.

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