With leaders linking via video link – and Saudi Arabia as host – attention was quickly drawn to vaccines as promising results from US-based laboratories Pfizer and Moderna raise hopes for more weapons soon against the pandemic, with China and Russia planning expansion beyond trials of their vaccines.
In brief comments to the group, President Trump said the United States has “marshaled all resources” against coronavirus and noted the “record-setting rate” for developing vaccines and other therapies, according to a White House summary of the remarks.
However, he did not promise anything about expanding the availability of US vaccines.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said China was “willing to strengthen cooperation”
“We will meet our commitments, offer help and support to other developing countries and work hard to make vaccines a public good that citizens of all countries can use and afford,” Xi said.
China has opened trials of several state-sponsored vaccines in nations from Southeast Asia to Latin America. It has also become a leading backer in international vaccine collaborations such as Covax, a WHO-linked effort to expand vaccine distribution in developing countries. Trump had refused to join Covax as his administration withdrew from the UN Public Health Agency.
Pfizer and Moderna have focused on possible domestic distribution under the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed program. The European Union and other wealthy allies have cut separate offers for the supply of vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer, which have teamed up with German BioNTech.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country was ready to share its vaccines of “humanitarian considerations” and warned that the pandemic was hitting the global economy and raising the risk of “mass, long-term unemployment and the accompanying rise in poverty and social distortion”. . “
“And the role of the G-20 is to ensure that this does not happen,” Putin said in the Kremlin translation of his remarks.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the meeting that the G-20 should endorse “affordable and equitable distribution of covid-19 vaccine to all.” Similar messages were shared by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who said all nations should have “equal and affordable access.”
Expectations remain low that the two-day summit will yield significant results in its toned-down approach to issues such as global economic crises and climate change. Members are expected to complete a framework to provide poor nations with debt relief and vaccine initiatives such as Covax.
The rally drew backlash from Saudi and international human rights groups – as well as some U.S. and European lawmakers – who called on world leaders to boycott or downgrade their representation over the kingdom’s abuses, including the imprisonment of female activists and the killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
For Trump, the meetings marked yet another concluding round on the world stage before handing over power to the Biden administration in January. After attending some of the White House virtual summits, Trump left to play golf.
In his introductory speech, King Salman of Saudi Arabia addressed a display of international leaders, including Trump, highlighting the financial support that G-20 members had helped fight the coronavirus pandemic and the economic downturn. He called on the G-20 to create a collective path forward.
“In the near future, we must tackle the vulnerabilities exposed to covid-19 by working to protect lives and livelihoods,” said the 84-year-old monarch, who spoke slowly in a raspy voice.
To the right of the king was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the kingdom who has sought to reform Saudi economy and society along with a years-long breakdown of disagreement that has brought him increased control and criticism.
Saudi Arabia had hoped for a personal Riyadh summit, but announced in September that it would be held largely because of coronavirus.
It was initially unclear whether Trump would attend, but he announced Friday that he would.
In a statement on Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she planned to push members to continue providing pandemic-related financial support until recovery from the virus is secure.
She also expressed hope that the United States’ “newly elected president” will “increase multilateral cooperation” in areas such as health and climate change, noting that “the United States has so far refrained from engaging” in a reprimand of Trumps isolationist politics.
On Friday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said $ 28 billion is still needed to fund the production and distribution of coronavirus vaccines. While G-20 members previously agreed to suspend debt payments to the world’s poorest nations through mid-2021, he also called on them to extend relief until the end of the year so governments can prioritize tackling the virus and economic downturn.
Italy, which takes over the presidency next in 2021, has said debt relief to Africa will be among its priorities.
The group of 20 nations, which produces about 85 percent of global economic output, includes countries with among the highest cases of coronavirus, led by the United States.
Trump is one of three leaders attending the summit who have confirmed cases of coronavirus, along with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Johnson, who in April demanded intensive care after getting the virus, is in quarantine after recent exposure to someone who tested positive.
Kareem Fahim of Istanbul and Josh Dawsey of Washington contributed to this report.