In Brief: US urges G-7 to 'go big' on COVID-19 response

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U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Photo by: Federal reserve / U.S. Department of State

G-7 finance ministers and central bank governors gathered virtually Friday for their first meeting since Joe Biden became the U.S. president.

The United Kingdom, this year’s host for the G-7, called for the group of leading industrial nations to “take the lead in shaping support for vulnerable countries in 2021” and make climate a key priority for its finance agenda, according to a statement from the British Treasury.

The agenda also included discussion of global debt problems, vaccine distribution for low-income countries, and Special Drawing Rights, or SDRs, according to Eric LeCompte, executive director at Jubilee USA.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who participated in the meeting, said that “the time to go big is now” and that the G-7, with international financial institutions, “must work to address the challenges facing low-income countries who are struggling to respond to the pandemic,” according to a Treasury Department statement.

Why it matters: Watchers hoped the Biden administration’s first G-7 meeting might provide clues as to the U.S. position on a number of topics, particularly a new issuance of SDRs. Former President Donald Trump’s administration was one of the few governments against supporting a new issuance last year, and while development advocates are hoping for the Biden administration’s support, the Treasury Department has not yet made its position clear.

What’s next: While no decisions about SDRs were made at Friday’s meeting — or even expected — the discussion will likely continue at a meeting later this month of the G-20 group of leading nations. The G-20 would ultimately include the liquidity-boosting move in an official communiqué if there is agreement, but LeCompte said it isn’t likely to come at this next meeting.

About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is a Senior Reporter at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.