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Biden begins a week of diplomacy, pledges 500 million vaccine doses to poorer countries

President Biden on Thursday kicked off his week of diplomacy in a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of the beginning of the G-7 summit Friday. Biden also announced a significant step by his administration that he said would “supercharge” the global fight against COVID-19. Yamiche Alcindor, who is traveling with the president, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Biden kicked off his week of international diplomacy in a meeting with Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Southwest England.

    It was the first meeting between the leaders, just ahead of the beginning of the G7 summit tomorrow. Mr. Biden also announced a significant step that he said would supercharge the global fight against COVID-19.

  • President Joseph Biden:

    The United States will purchase a half a billion doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to donate to nearly 100 nations that are in dire need in the fight against this pandemic.

    This is a monumental commitment by the American people. As I said, we're a nation full of people who step up at times of need to help our fellow human beings, both at home and abroad. We're not perfect, but we step up.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Traveling with the president is our Yamiche Alcindor, and she joins me now from Plymouth, England.

    So, hello to you, Yamiche. It is evening there.

    Five hundred million doses, that is a lot. What more do we know about President Biden's plans to contribute this money to countries that are struggling to get people vaccinated?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, President Biden and the White House is presenting this pledge to donate 500 million COVID vaccine doses to struggling nations as really part of America's responsibility to help the world and also as being in America's interests to try to keep our own people safe.

    But it does come as the U.S. is facing pressure to do more to help other countries get vaccinated, and as the U.S. was facing criticism in the way we went about vaccinating our own people. So, today, the president spoke at length about this donation of 500 million doses.

    And what he said was America steps up when people need us. He said that it is the American way, the American value system to be able to look at people and see them — and see them struggling and doing more. He said, it is our responsibility as Americans to help as many people as possible not die from this pandemic.

    And he pointed out that 600 — almost 600,000 Americans have already died from the virus. He also said, though, that this is because America will benefit from this donation. He said that the only way this pandemic is going to end is if people around the world are vaccinated.

    And he pointed out that there are variants going on even here in the U.K. that were originally in other countries. One of the highest variants that we're seeing in the U.K. right now, it originated in India. So this was really President Biden making that pitch.

    But the other thing we should note is that European leaders over and over again were asking, what else can the United States do? How much more can the United States do to help with vaccine donation? So that comes amid that.

    Also, you heard some European leaders, including the prime minister of Belgium, saying that the U.S., the way we were prioritizing production through the Defense Production Act, that it actually upset the global supply chain. So, that's an accusation that European leaders are making against the United States that prioritized making sure that Americans had the vaccine and that they were produced domestically.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, we know that President Biden also, of course, today was meeting with the British prime minister, Boris Johnson.

    Tell us more about that meeting and about how each of these leaders used it to advance their own goals.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, President Biden and the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, both said that they were really trying to underscore their value for democracy.

    And they also talked at length about the special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. And they did two things. They, one, talked about a revitalized Atlantic Charter. Now, the first charter was signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in 1941.

    And it outlined the U.S. and British goals for how to end World War II. And this now revitalize 2021 version, the U.S. is saying and the U.K. is saying that this is really adding to that, talking about cybersecurity, talking about climate.

    One thing, though, that the president, President Biden, didn't bring up in his remarks afterward was Northern Ireland. Now, as a candidate, President Biden said that he wanted to make sure, whatever agreement came out of Brexit and trade negotiations, that it did not upset the Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, though, was out saying that the U.S. and the E.U., they're all on the same page when it comes to making sure that peace in Ireland is preserved. So that's one place to watch as this all continues.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So many issues to follow.

    Yamiche Alcindor reporting on it all for the president's trip into next week.

    Yamiche, thank you.

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