The US secretary of state is to hold talks with his British counterpart, Dominic Raab, while the UK is on the back foot over plans to set new global targets to help girls’ education at a time when London is drastically cutting aid to the sector.

Antony Blinken’s trip to London for the G7 meeting will include discussions with other foreign and development ministers on Tuesday and Wednesday. It is the first face-to-face meeting at G7 level for two years and foreign ministers from South Korea, Australia, India and South Africa will also be attending some of the talks.

The Foreign Office has chosen to highlight plans on a new target for sending 40 million girls from low and middle-income countries to school within five years. Ministers will use the London summit to collectively agree to help women in developing countries with a $15bn (£10.8bn) two-year package of support.

The average UK aid spending since 2016 on girls’ education had been £672m a year, but the 2021 commitment has been set at £400m.

Andrew Mitchell, a former international development secretary, said the UK’s reputation as a global leader in this field had been gravely diminished “by allowing cuts not just to schooling but to family planning and maternal healthcare – all of which are integral to each other.”

During the G7 talks, US and European leaders will also be under pressure to speed up the export of vaccines to the world’s poorest countries and to relax the patent laws on some vaccines, a proposal backed by India and South Africa. The Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, spoke to the US president, Joe Biden, last weekend in a call to get the vaccine patents lifted.

The White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, said this weekend that the US would have more to say in the days to come on “how to get this vaccine more widely shared and more widely licensed”. The US trade representative Katherine Tai would hold talks at the World Trade Organization on the issue, he added.

The former British prime minister Gordon Brown is to use a press conference at the WHO to call for the G7 to provide the funds needed to protect the world’s poor. Brown lamented last month that affluent countries accounting for 18% of the world’s population had been responsible for the bulk of the orders placed for vaccines.

“Immunising the west but only a fraction of the developing world is already fuelling allegations of a ‘vaccine apartheid’ and will leave Covid-19 spreading, mutating and threatening the lives and livelihoods of us all for years to come,” he said.

Raab is hoping part of the talks will focus on how the west can form stronger alliances to combat authoritarianism in Russia and China. All western countries are struggling to find the balance between confronting China and wanting China to open up its booming markets, as well as to do more to cooperate over climate change.

In the UK bilateral talks, the UK will press Blinken on the prospects of a bilateral trade deal, something that has been sidelined in the wake of Donald Trump’s defeat in the presidential elections.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here