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Italian prime minister: multilateralism is the answer to COVID pandemic

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It was a busy day at the G-20 summit today as leaders from the world's 20 wealthiest countries met in Rome, Italy, for their first in-person gathering after nearly two years of coronavirus lockdowns. President Biden is there. He also had a key meeting today with the leaders of France, Germany and Britain to discuss what to do next about Iran's nuclear program. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is with us now from Rome to tell us more. Sylvia, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: What was on the agenda today?

POGGIOLI: Well, the first day focused on global health and the post-COVID economic recovery. And the leaders unanimously endorsed a global minimum tax of 15% on corporations. Earlier, a senior Biden administration official who briefed reporters said this is a game-changer that'll create at least $60 billion in new revenue a year in the U.S. and will reshape the rules of the global economy. This means that big internet giants like Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft will not be able to avoid paying taxes by setting up headquarters in low-tax countries.

And at the end of the day, the White House announced the U.S. and the European Union have reached agreement over steel and aluminum tariffs that had been imposed by the Trump administration that claimed they were a threat to U.S. national security. They won't be completely removed, but some quantity of European steel and aluminum will be allowed to enter the U.S. without tariffs under the new deal. And it's really seen as an important step in overcoming the tensions in U.S.-Europe relations that are part of the Trump legacy.

MARTIN: What about the pandemic? Was this discussed? And its effect on economies - how was this talked about?

POGGIOLI: Oh, absolutely. In his welcome, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi stressed that the pandemic had kept them apart for almost two years. But Draghi also pointed out that the G-20 must do much more for the poorer countries. These 20 countries account for 75% of global trade and 60% of the world population. Draghi said in high-income countries, more than 70% of the population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER MARIO DRAGHI: In the poorest ones, this percentage drops to roughly 3%. These differences are morally unacceptable and undermine the global recovery.

MARTIN: Sylvia, what about an issue that has just become very important in a lot of conversations - the issue of climate change?

POGGIOLI: Well, this summit is, in some ways, a preamble to the U.N. Climate Change Conference that starts Monday in Glasgow, and that will be attended by many of the same leaders who are here in Rome. Now, host Italy here at the summit had set three action points - people, planet, prosperity - and hopes the summit will set a shared midcentury deadline for net zero carbon emissions. That very difficult topic will be dealt with tomorrow. But other than an acknowledgement of the danger of global warming, observers fear that real commitments here in Rome to reduce emissions are pretty unlikely, and that's despite the presence of many young environmental activists. While the G-20 leaders were meeting on the outskirts of Rome, thousands marched through the streets, demanding, world leaders, save the planet. And they repeatedly shouted, shame, shame.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in non-English language).

MARTIN: And as we mentioned earlier, President Biden met separately with the leaders of France, Germany and Britain to talk about Iran. Can you tell us what came out of that?

POGGIOLI: Well, French President Emmanuel Macron's office issued a statement - joint statement - that called on Iran to seize the opportunity of a possible U.S. return to a nuclear program deal to prevent what they call a dangerous escalation. The four leaders vowed they'll do everything to ensure Iran can never develop or acquire a nuclear weapon. And they expressed concern that Iran has accelerated provocative nuclear steps, such as producing highly enriched uranium and enriched uranium metal. They say these are not needed for civilian use but are key to nuclear weapons programs.

MARTIN: That was NPR's Sylvia Poggioli telling us about the meeting of the world's 20 largest economies, the so-called G-20 meeting in Rome. Sylvia, thank you so much for bringing us up to date.

POGGIOLI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.