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Biden meets with G-7 leaders to discuss global vaccinations, taxes on world’s wealthiest

President Biden joined leaders of the world's top economic democratic nations Friday for the start of the three-day G-7 meeting in southwest England. On the agenda are global taxes, trade and the fight to end the COVID-19 pandemic. White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, who is traveling with the president, joins Judy Woodruff from Plymouth, England to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Biden joined leaders of the world's top economic democratic nations today for the start of the three-day G7 meeting in Southwest England, on the agenda, global taxes, trade, and the fight to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Our Yamiche Alcindor is traveling with the president.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Elbow bump greetings and a group photo that was socially distanced, but without facial coverings, this year, at the Group of Seven meeting in Cornwall, England, visible remnants of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The virus outbreak forced last year's gathering to be canceled. One of President Biden's goals during his eight-day, three-country trip to Europe? To show that the world's democracies are alive and well and come together to solve big challenges. That includes ending the pandemic.

    Today, the United States and European leaders committed to sharing at least one billion COVID vaccines with struggling countries around the world. Half of the doses will come from the U.S.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel also noted a distinct change in tone from the previous American administration.

  • Angela Merkel (through translator):

    He stands for the commitment to multilateralism, which we were missing in recent years.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Mr. Biden's attendance today was a sharp contrast to former President Donald Trump's confrontational approach to America's European allies.

  • Former President, Donald Trump:

    In just a few minutes, I'll be leaving.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    During the 2018 G7 meeting, Trump insulted European Union countries over a trade dispute, and then left the meeting early.

  • Prime Minister Borris Johnson:

    He's a big breath of fresh air.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    After meeting with President Biden yesterday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to acknowledge the shift in America's posture.

    While the president is working to reestablish ties, his team is also eager to press European officials on issues around climate, trade and China's influence.

    Today, the G7 leaders endorsed a new tax plan pushed by the Biden team. It raises the global minimum tax for corporations to 15 percent. That proposal will be refined before possible adoption at the expanded G20 meeting next month in Italy.

    But overshadowing Biden's meetings with European officials this week and next his final event, a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland.

    Today, President Biden wouldn't say exactly what message he planned to deliver to Putin, but he has made it clear it will be a firm one.

  • Question:

    Mr. President, what's your message to Putin?

  • President Joseph Biden:

    I will tell you after I deliver it.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president is expected to raise a range of issues with Putin, including the ransomware attacks on U.S. energy, food, and other infrastructure, coming from criminal gangs inside Russia.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Yamiche joins me now from Plymouth, England.

    Hello to you, Yamiche.

    So, we know there's still a lot these G7 leaders do not agree on. How are they trying to work through all that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, there was elbow bumps, instead of elbow pushing, which is what we saw when former President Trump was at the G7. This was a much friendlier, a much more cordial meeting.

    That said, there are, as you said, key differences between the U.S. and our European allies. Chief among them is this idea of trade. There are a lot of European leaders who are trying to understand the difference between President Biden's buy American and former President Trump's America first and make America great again slogans.

    The other thing to note is that there's this issue of COVID vaccines. We saw today the G7 is going to be donating one billion vaccine doses around the world. But there was real pressure for the U.S. to step up. And, of course, half of those doses are coming for the United States.

    The other thing experts tell me that that's a real issue here is the withdrawal from Afghanistan. There are some who think President Biden did not really talk to his European allies enough ahead of that withdrawal announcement. So there are some real issues to talk to there, and, of course, the influence of China among all of these European leaders.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, as you mentioned, after the meeting with the G7 leaders, the president is going to be in Geneva for that meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

    What do we know about what President Biden hopes to gain from that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, President Biden really wants to just show that America is strong, that we're taking a firmer stance with Russia.

    His predecessor, former President Trump, was seen as too cozy to Russia, including even taking Russia's side when Vladimir Putin was denying meddling in the 2016 election. So there's real issues there.

    But the White House and White House officials are also trying to lower expectations, saying that there isn't an exact deliverable out of this. They say that they're meeting because of their differences, not in spite of their differences. That's something that we have heard from the White House over and over again.

    But there are some real topics to deal with on the agenda, including ransomware attacks that have attacked the U.S. infrastructure system. A lot of those criminal gangs are reportedly based in Russia. Another thing to talk through is human rights issues in Russia and the human rights issues around the world. Another thing is Russia invading Ukraine. There's some real questions there from the — from President Biden.

    So this is a completely different tone from President Biden than what we have seen over the past four years from former President Trump. And that, White House officials say, is the point of this meeting.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, given all these issues, this fraught relationship, there will be a lot of attention on that meeting.

    Yamiche Alcindor reporting on President Biden's trip, joining us from England.

    Thank you, Yamiche.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks so much, Judy.

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