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The US is banking on G7 summit to revitalise transatlantic ties | Business and Economy News



On the craggy southwest coast of England, top leaders representing Western democracies are gathering from Friday through the weekend to discuss a daunting list of weighty issues.

In addition to the United Kingdom, which is hosting the meeting, heads of government from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan will be present. Leaders from South Africa, Australia and South Korea are also attending, with India’s planned attendance waylaid due to COVID-19.

Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers began their consultations in early May to discuss Western pushback against Russia and China, the coronavirus, economic recovery and climate change.

The geopolitical confab is US President Joe Biden’s first trip abroad since taking office in January.

At the Carbis Bay Hotel in Cornwall, Biden is expected to turn the page on the policies made by his predecessor, Donald Trump, that antagonised some major US allies.

Recharging transatlantic relationships is crucial for US President Joe Biden, who got the ball rolling by holding bilateral discussions with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Other presidents and prime ministers will help try to revive traditional diplomatic alliances in the post-Trump era among wealthy economies that amount to $40 trillion, around half of global gross domestic product.

Recharging transatlantic relationships is crucial for Biden, who is getting the ball rolling on Thursday by holding bilateral discussions with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The US government is hoping to show that democracy — and most importantly its own — can meet the moment.

The world’s richest and most powerful democratic nations face myriad challenges, from fending off autocratic governments and global warming to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and unbalanced trade relations. Those, specifically, are the four summit priorities identified by the UK government.

Global minimum corporate tax

“This is exciting because this is the first major G7 summit with a new administration, with new energy and momentum,” said Christine McDaniel, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.

“The US and many of our European partners are realising that only through deep cooperation can we solve these issues,” she told Al Jazeera.

The business community is anxious to see what emerges from the seaside meeting in response to accelerating ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure.

On the economic front, a huge accomplishment for the pre-leaders summit was announced last weekend when G7 finance ministers in London reached an historic agreement on a unified minimum tax rate for all multinational corporations.

The victory for multilateralism is pending further work at an upcoming gathering for 135 nations within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development over the summer in Paris.

The two pillars of the pact in progress are a global minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent and a requirement that multinationals pay taxes to the country where they actually sell their products and services, rather than book those profits to a lower-tax country.

The US hopes the deal will stave off the digital services tax that Washington feared for big technology and social media firms. But tax havens could still object.

Last weekend G7 finance ministers in London reached an historic agreement on a unified minimum tax rate for all multinational corporations [File: Henry Nicholls/Pool/Reuters]

G7 leaders on the sunny Cornish coast are slated to endorse the ambitious US proposal first announced in May by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

The Group of 20 (G20) meeting of finance ministers in July in Italy is expected to iron out the finer points of a solution designed to put an end to the race to the bottom that has incentivised companies to avoid paying their fair share by accounting profits in jurisdictions with minimal taxes.

“Digital flows are an increasing part of world trade flows of ideas and people and a driver of productivity growth,” McDaniel added, warning against any sort of tariffs on digital commerce.

“Countries want companies to pay their fair share,” she added. “Germany can’t make Google pay, but they can tax every order that crosses their border.”

UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said on Twitter that “under the principles of the landmark reforms, the largest global firms with profit margins of at least 10% will be in scope”.

Supporters of a global minimum corporate tax rate say a sealed deal would give many nations more money to fund their economic recoveries after the pandemic gutted budgets on both sides of the Atlantic.

Clean Green Initiative

Coping with a once-in-a-century pandemic may also have helped highlight common ground on how to keep the climate emergency at bay.

In the run-up to the summit, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that leaders would work to “provide financing for physical, digital and health infrastructure in the developing world”.

At a White House press conference earlier this week, Sullivan suggested that the Clean Green Initiative would provide “a high standard [and a] transparent, rules-based alternative to what China has offered” with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

That project aims to prove the effectiveness and cohesion of the West in opposing Beijing’s BRI, which seeks to extend and deepen China’s economic and political power around the globe by funding big infrastructure projects.

“We have an opportunity to deliver ambitious progress that curbs the climate crisis and creates jobs by driving a global clean-energy transition,” Biden wrote in a Washington Post op-ed over the weekend.

G7 leaders still need to sort out whether substantial new funding will be allocated to the Clean Green Initiative, or whether they will settle with just establishing a loose framework for rivalling China’s trillion-dollar BRI.

Officials also are tasked with deciding the geographic scope of the plan. European nations reportedly want to focus on Africa, while Japan prefers an Asian focus and the US places a greater priority on Latin America – its backyard.

G7 leaders are expected to unveil a Clean Green Initiative to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative [File: Tom Nicholson/Reuters]

But some analysts believe that any moves by the G7 that further deepen the growing global bifurcation between the American and Sino spheres of influence could be counterproductive when it comes to tackling planet-wide challenges.

“The Biden administration is doing the right thing by working closely with its democracy allies to address some of the world’s pressing problems, but I don’t think it is a great idea to use G7 to open another ideological battlefield with Beijing,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Global challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic or climate crisis do not recognise territorial borders,” he told Al Jazeera. “You cannot expect a small group of democracies to take care of them all without the cooperation or collaboration from China.”

G7 finance ministers last weekend began to hammer out how to deliver the promised $100bn of climate finance. They also reached a consensus on making banks and other companies regularly disclose information on climate risks.

New research published on Thursday by the Science Based Targets initiative said that none of the G7 stock exchanges are consistent with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate. Just 19 percent of listed companies on those leading indexes have targets aligned with that pact.

Regardless, climate investments could be crowded out by continued efforts to speed up the end to the coronavirus crisis worldwide.

Laying out a pathway to defeat the coronavirus pandemic remains atop the G7 summit agenda [File: Elaine Thompson/AP]

Vaccine distribution plan

Laying out a pathway to defeat the pandemic remains atop the G7 summit agenda, and finance ministers have begun discussing a $50bn vaccine distribution plan for poor nations with the International Monetary Fund, World Health Organization and World Trade Organization.

UK PM Boris Johnson has said he is seeking a commitment to vaccinate the whole world by the end of 2022, and UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says equitable access to shots through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX) is essential.

The UK has responded to the US president’s call to waive vaccine patents temporarily by instead advocating technology transfers from pharmaceutical firms with not-for-profit pricing.

A new international approach to prevent future pandemics also kicked off last week with G7 health ministers meeting in Oxford.

On another pressing global topic, legislators in the US and UK have been pushing their leaders to establish — at the G7 — an international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The UK’s Queen Elizabeth II is set to meet with Biden and US First Lady Jill Biden at her Windsor Castle home at the conclusion of the summit. He will become the 13th president to sit down with the 95-year-old monarch.

Biden will continue on to Brussels for the NATO and US-EU summits, before travelling to Geneva to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a major test for Western democratic values.

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Explainer: What is the Delta Plus variant of COVID-19? | Coronavirus pandemic News




Scientists worry the mutation, coupled with other existing features of the Delta variant, could make it more transmissible.

India on Wednesday said it has found about 40 cases of the Delta coronavirus variant carrying a mutation that appears to make it more transmissible, and advised states to increase testing.

Here is what we know about the variant.

What is Delta Plus?

The variant, called Delta Plus in India, was first reported (PDF) in a Public Health England bulletin on June 11.

It is a sublineage of the Delta variant first detected in India and has acquired the spike protein mutation, called K417N, which is also found in the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.

Some scientists worry that the mutation, coupled with other existing features of the Delta variant, could make it more transmissible.

“The mutation K417N has been of interest as it is present in the Beta variant (B.1.351 lineage), which was reported to have immune evasion property,” India’s health ministry said in a statement.

Shahid Jameel, a top Indian virologist, said the K417N was known to reduce the effectiveness of a cocktail of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.

Where all it has been found?

As of June 16 (PDF), at least 197 cases have been found in 11 countries – Britain (36), Canada (1), India (8), Japan (15), Nepal (3), Poland (9), Portugal (22), Russia (1), Switzerland (18), Turkey (1), the United States (83).

India said on Wednesday about 40 cases of the variant have been observed in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with “no significant increase in prevalence”. The earliest case in India is from a sample taken on April 5.

Britain said its first five cases were sequenced on April 26 and they were contacts of individuals who had travelled from, or transited through, Nepal and Turkey.

No deaths were reported among the United Kingdom and Indian cases.

What are the worries?

Studies are continuing in India and globally to test the effectiveness of vaccines against this mutation.

“WHO is tracking this variant as part of the Delta variant, as we are doing for other Variants of Concern with additional mutations,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement sent to Reuters news agency.

“For the moment, this variant does not seem to be common, currently accounting for only a small fraction of the Delta sequences … Delta and other circulating Variants of Concern remain a higher public health risk as they have demonstrated increases in transmission,” it said.

But India’s health ministry warned that regions where it has been found “may need to enhance their public health response by focusing on surveillance, enhanced testing, quick contact-tracing and priority vaccination”.

There are worries Delta Plus would inflict another wave of infections on India after it emerged from the world’s worst surge in cases only recently.

“The mutation itself may not lead to a third wave in India – that also depends on COVID-appropriate behaviour, but it could be one of the reasons,” said Tarun Bhatnagar, a scientist with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research.

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EU citizens in UK to be given 28 days to apply for settled status | Brexit News




People who miss the June 30 settlement scheme deadline will be issued warnings to apply or risk losing their rights.

European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom will be given a 28-day warning to apply for post-Brexit settled status or face losing some of their rights from next month, the government said on Tuesday.

The UK’s so-called settlement scheme for EU and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens, which opened in early 2019, closes on June 30.

It allows Europeans in the UK to retain the same residence, travel, employment and healthcare rights they had before Brexit.

The rules around the UK’s departure from the bloc, which came into force at the beginning of this year, ended the reciprocal freedom of movement.

About 5.6 million people and their dependents have applied for settled status under the scheme since it was introduced.

But about 400,000 cases still require processing, while many are rushing to submit their applications before next week’s deadline.

At the same time, messaging and outreach campaigns are targeting those who may not be aware of the need to apply by next week’s deadline.

Immigration minister Kevin Foster said anyone whose application was not filed by the deadline would not see their rights immediately withdrawn, as they were protected by law.

But he also ruled out extending the June 30 cutoff point.

“Put simply, extending the deadline is not the solution to reaching those people who have not yet applied, and we would just be in a position further down the line where we would be asked to extend again, creating more uncertainties,” Foster told members of a parliamentary committee.

He added that immigration enforcement officials would instead begin issuing 28-day notices to those yet to apply.

The UK’s Home Office, which oversees immigration, said that applications may also be submitted past the 28-day notice period in some cases.

“We’ll set up the support available and we’ll signpost people to make an application, but we do recognise that there may be some people who, after that 28 days, still haven’t been able to make an application,” a Home Office spokesman said, according to The Guardian newspaper.

“I think we would want to work with them to understand why that is the case, and then support them again to make the application.”

Foster said those who had missed the deadline on reasonable grounds will still be able to apply, citing exceptions such as children whose parents had failed to apply on their behalf, or individuals with a serious illness that had prevented them from filing their paperwork.

The government will also issue a “certificate of application” for those awaiting a decision, he added, which will act as proof of their right to work, rent property, obtain benefits and use the National Health Service.

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Distribution of Mosquito Nets to Markets Traders Commences




Government has on Wednesday started distributing mosquito nets to traders; starting with the Nakasero market.

The exercise was kick-started with 2000 mosquito nets from Quality Chemicals Limited (QCL).

During his last address to the nation on Friday 18th June 2021, President Yoweri Museveni announced a 42-day lockdown directive, and all food market vendors were asked to stay at their places of work to avoid spreading the disease.

“Food market vendors should revert to the Presidential Directive of March 2020 to stay in their places of work,” he said.

President Museveni also said that the food market vendors were to be provided with mosquito nets and polythene sheets for their protection.

Handing over the donation, Mr. Emmanuel Katongole, a director at Quality Chemicals Limited applauded the market vendors for the sacrifice made when they fled their homes to sleep at workplaces to earn a living for their families and provide food to our communities.

“It is therefore important to us to ensure that they are protected from the harmful mosquitoes that linger in the night. We have donated 2000 mosquito nets to the Ministry of Health who will supply them to the market vendors,” he said

Adding, “I applaud the president and the Ministry of Health for their role in the fight against covid-19. As Quality Chemicals, we decided to contribute towards government efforts in the fight against malaria.”

Upon receipt of the donation on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary applauded quality chemicals for a helping hand.

“The women who sleep in the market are about 5000 according to the number that was given to us by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The ministry has also brought 3000 nets to ensure that the population is covered. The nets are to protect them from mosquito bites while you’re asleep,” she said.

She asked them to follow the Standard Operating Procedures to avoid the further spread of Covid-19.

The post Distribution of Mosquito Nets to Markets Traders Commences first appeared on ChimpReports.

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