Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. He can be reached on [email protected]
U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has just completed the first day of his first official foreign trip since his inauguration on January 20, 2021, after defeating President Donald J. Trump in November 2020.
The 78-year-old American leader (he was born on November 20, 1942) left Washington DC late on Wednesday and went directly to the United Kingdom where former President Trump’s friend Boris Johnson is now the Prime Minister.
But that does not really matter, the U.S. and the UK love to believe they have a special bond, have fought wars together, share intelligence with each other and are both against a rising China and a dangerous Russia.
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In fact, as a gesture of friendship and in recognition of their shared interest in cycling, President Biden gave Prime Minister Johnson an American-made touring bicycle and bike helmet custom-made by Bilenky Cycle Works, a small family business located in Philadelphia, PA that crafts American bicycles. In 2010, Bilenky Cycle Works founded the Philadelphia Bike Expo to promote cycling culture. The expo is now one of the largest cycling trade shows in the United States.
That aside, Biden went to the United Kingdom also because that’s where the leaders of the Group of Seven nations will be meeting tomorrow. That meeting is called the G7 leaders’ summit.
Biden and Johnson met privately first, and then publicly, for some pictures and public declarations. That’s how most leaders operate, they fight in private and smile in public, shaking hands and holding press briefings. But the main things always happen behind the scenes.
Anyway, speaking in St Ives, England, Biden announced that the United States will be saving the world with 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine that will be shared with COVAX, the global initiative by the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.
Biden’ speech took place on a lawn outside the Tregenna Castle hotel. The lawn was surrounded by the castle hotel‘s villas, each of which has a balcony. A lectern was set up with the presidential seal. A Teleprompter was erected in front, and the president made his big announcement.
Several hours later, Johnson also announced that other six of the G7 nations will match the vaccine doses with 500 million of their own. As a result, the G7 countries combined will donate at least 1 billion vaccine doses to the rest of the world.
Johnson, who almost died last year from the coronavirus, announced that 100 million of those doses will come from the UK with 5 million doses going out in the coming weeks.
Wearing a dark blue suit and a blue and white stripped tie, President Biden said vaccinating the world with the Pfizer vaccine is also in the interest of the United States.
As he spoke, Pfizer CEO and Chairman Albert Bourla stood a few feet away to his right. He wrapped up remarks at 6:42 pm. local time, and he and Bourla shook hands before Bourla began speaking. Biden stood to his left.
But it seems many reporters were already thinking about his meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, even though it will be the last major event he will have next week before departing Europe for Washington DC
Reporters reported (of course what else do reporters do) that President Biden turned and smiled at a question from NBC’s Mike Memoli about his upcoming meeting with Vladimir Putin but did not stop or answer. He also didn’t answer a subsequent question from Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs on Northern Ireland.
The president traveled to the UK with a solid delegation. During his bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and members of the United Kingdom delegation, President Biden was surrounded by Antony Blinken, Secretary of State; Jake Sullivan, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; Yael Lempert, Chargé d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy; Jeffrey Zients, Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President; Daleep Singh, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor, and Deputy National Economic Council Director, as well as Dr. Amanda Sloat, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs, National Security Council and Rebecca Neff, Director for European Affairs.
While Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was surrounded by Dominic Raab, MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland; Karen Pierce, Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the United States; Lord David Frost, Minister of State; Sir Stephen Lovegrove, National Security Advisor; Mr. Will Gelling, Private Secretary for Foreign Affairs; Professor John Bew, Foreign Policy Special Advisor and Mr. Jack Doyle, Director of Communications.
These are just too many names, and I am wondering if I have told you already about the First Lady, Jill Biden, oh pardon me, Doctor Jill Biden. The First Lady of the United States also known as FLOTUS had a two-minute gaggle with media outside the building after she and Mrs. Johnson had tea.
“It’s really nice to be here in Cornwall. It’s my first time. Obviously it’s beautiful for those of you have been here before,” she said. “Joe and I are really looking forward to meeting everyone at the G7.”
Talking about her jacket, which had the word LOVE on the back, FLOTUS said, “I think that we’re bringing love from America. This is a global conference and we are trying to bring unity across the globe and I think it’s needed right bow, that people feel a sense of unity from all the countries and feel a sense hope after this year of the pandemic.”
She also said her husband, President Biden, ‘over prepared’ for his first foreign trip.
“I think he’s so well prepared. He’s been studying for weeks, working up to today. Of course he knows most of the leaders that‘ll be here. Joe loves foreign policy. This is his forte,” she said. “Oh my gosh. He’s over prepared,” she added when asked if he was prepared for the Putin meeting.
She also spoke about the meeting with the Royals: “Well, we’re hoping to focus, I think, on education. Joe and I are both looking forward to meeting the Queen. That’s an exciting part of the visit for us. We’ve looked forward to this for weeks and now it’s finally here. It’s a beautiful beginning.”
This will be an 8-day trip filled with interesting events. Let’s do this again tomorrow.