Biden to announce major COVID-19 vaccine sharing plan

AFP
The US leader is due to meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday, and attend G7 gathering from Friday to Sunday. He will finish in Geneva to meet Putin next Wednesday.
AFP
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Biden to announce major COVID-19 vaccine sharing plan
AFP

US President Joe Biden and US First Lady Jill Biden walk through a cordon of honor guard after arriving at Cornwall Airport Newquay in Saint Mawgan, Britain, on June 9.

Joe Biden triumphantly announced "the United States is back!" as he kicked off his first overseas tour as US president, urging global collaboration and consensus to rebuild after COVID-19 and reset diplomatic ties after the divisive isolation of the Trump era.

His multilateral charm offensive began even before he touched down in England for a packed week that takes in a G7 leaders' meeting, summits with NATO and the European Union, and talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

On the way, Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters aboard Air Force One that the president would kick things off with news of a major vaccine-sharing initiative.

Sullivan would not give full details, but US media reports said the Biden administration is set to buy 500 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for international distribution.

The Group of Seven will make a further joint declaration on "a comprehensive plan to help end this pandemic as rapidly as possible," he said.

'Tight' transatlantic ties

US armed forces personnel stationed at British Royal Air Force base Mildenhall in eastern England gave Biden, 78, and his wife, Jill, a raucous welcome after the presidential jet touched down.

The US leader is due to meet with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday.

He will attend the G7 gathering in a Cornish seaside resort from Friday to Sunday, alongside the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Then, in rapid succession, he will visit Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and fly to Brussels for summits with the NATO military alliance on Monday and the European Union on Tuesday.

He will finish in Geneva to meet Putin next Wednesday.

With the world still crawling out from under the wreckage of COVID-19, Biden has cast his diplomatic marathon as a return to US leadership.

At RAF Mildenhall, he quoted the Irish poet WB Yeats' "Easter 1916" – about the Irish rebellion against British rule – to sum up how the world had been "transformed utterly" by the global health crisis.

Biden's pitch marks a return to traditional US diplomacy after four years during which his predecessor Donald Trump flirted with autocrats and recast multilateralism as a dirty word.

At his meeting with Putin, Biden said he would "let him know what I want him to know," to loud cheers.

'Wind at back'

However, some European partners, stung by Trump, may be sceptical about his pledge.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis called on the US to "walk the talk" when it comes to resolving lingering Trump-era trade disputes.

And there was friction last month when Washington blocked French attempts at the United Nations to demand a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Biden's ramping up of vaccine donations also follows what critics saw as a long period of hoarding.

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