U.K. Business Chief Urges G-7 to Share Vaccines With the World

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Group of Seven nations must ensure coronavirus vaccines are better distributed around the world to safeguard a global economic recovery from the pandemic, a prominent British business leader said.

While countries such as the U.S. and U.K. are “ahead of the game” in their vaccination programs, just a tiny fraction of people in Africa have been inoculated against Covid-19, Confederation of British Industry President Karan Bilimoria said Tuesday in an interview. Just as following the global financial crisis, a “global effort” is needed, he said.

“No one’s safe unless we’re all safe,” said Bilimoria, a cross-bench member of the U.K. House of Lords. “We’ve got to make sure that vaccines are produced around the world. And also that they’re made available around the world.”

Bilimoria spoke on the final day of the CBI’s B7 CEO Summit. The key message of participants is that the recovery from the pandemic provides a “unique opportunity” to reset global cooperation, he said, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson well positioned to lead efforts because of the U.K.’s G-7 presidency.

Attendees are “unanimous” about the need to stem protectionism around the world, Bilimoria said. “We want more international collaboration on vaccines, on trade, on net zero and on digital. In 2017, more than 50% of exports from G-20 countries were subject to restrictive trade measures everything from import tariffs to export bans. And this is up 30% in 12 years.”

Key recommendations of the B7 include:

  • A call for the G-7 to commit to a ‘roadmap’ to roll back protectionist measures adopted during the pandemic
  • The G7 should push forward efforts to decarbonize the power sector, including phasing out coal by 2040 “where feasible”
  • Developing markets that value biodiversity, natural environments and natural carbon sinks such as forests
  • Establish “clear, consistent and internationally-harmonized standards and procedures” for restarting international travel, using mutual recognition of Covid-19 tests and digital health credentials
  • Greater cooperation on digital regulation

In the U.K., Bilimoria said businesses are “open-minded” about the use of Covid vaccination certification to help with re-opening after the lockdown, though he said testing should be an alternative. “We’ve got to move toward a way in which internally, business can work, and life can work as normally as possible, safely,” he said.

In terms of facilitating the reopening of the U.K. economy, business has three main asks of government, according to the CBI: clarity on social distancing requirements, clarity on the use of Covid-status certification, and clarity on the use of workplace testing beyond June 21, the last stage of the government’s “roadmap” for easing restrictions.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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