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Yellen: US economy threatened by slow vaccine deployment in poor countries

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In remarks prepared Monday at the Chicago Council on World Affairs ahead of this week’s meetings of international finance officials, Yellen called on richer countries to step up economic aid and public health to poorer countries reeling from covid. She noted that up to 150 million people around the world were at risk of falling into extreme poverty as a result of the crisis.

It would be a profound economic tragedy for these countries, a tragedy that we should be concerned about. But, it is obvious. What is less obvious but just as true is that this discrepancy would also be a problem for America, “Yellen said. Our first task clearly must be to stop the virus by ensuring that vaccinations, tests and therapies are available as widely as possible. “

Yet Yellens calls for a strong global effort in the face of significant headwinds. The Biden administration has so far resisted pressure to change intellectual property rules in a way that allows more countries to produce vaccines against the coronavirus. Democratic members of Congress and some global health experts have warned that refusing to do so could make it more difficult to vaccinate billions of people in poorer countries such as Africa and parts of South America and South America. Asia.

Meanwhile, Republican opposition has escalated in recent weeks to several of the Yellen’s global initiatives. GOP lawmakers in particular criticized Yellens’ push for a new international minimum tax, as well as his support for foreign emergency aid through the International Monetary Fund.

Yellens’ remarks come at a pivotal moment in its ambitious international agenda. In a reversal of the Trump administration’s decision, the Treasury Department under Yellen this month will allow a new allocation of a form of emergency aid to developing countries known as Special Drawing Rights.

This form of international aid, which does not need congressional approval, would allocate a special reserve of foreign exchange through the IMF to dozens of countries around the world. This special currency could then be exchanged in the United States in exchange for dollars, which would help struggling foreign countries to consolidate their financial reserves.

The move sparked a backlash on Capitol Hill, where Senators Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) And John Kennedy (R-La.) Criticized the measure as inappropriate, ineffective and a waste of Canadian money. taxpayers who would benefit both from countries that do not need help and from foreign adversaries like China and Iran. The Treasury Department responded that the United States would retain the right not to purchase SDRs from foreign countries, such as those sanctioned by the United States. The ministry also said there would be no fiscal cost. for the United States from the initial allocation of SDRs.

In addition to these efforts, Yellen is also pushing for an agreement through the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on a new global minimum tax. This effort aims to impose a floor on taxes internationally to prevent companies from playing nations against each other. Treasury officials have considered a deal on international taxes as early as this summer. The Biden administration cited this effort as central to its proposals for international tax hikes, which are a key part of how the White House plans to pay for its $ 2 trillion jobs and infrastructure proposal. of dollars.

On April 5, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called for a global minimum tax to help bring stability and provide a more level playing field for all countries. (The Chicago Council on Global Affairs)

The global tax burden of the Biden administrations has also been widely criticized by Republicans, who fear the United States will allow European countries to tax profitable American tech companies without a significant national benefit. My big concern is that as part of their desire to be in a parade with friends, the Biden administration will give too much, ”said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, center-right American Action Forum president and former director. of the Congress budget. Office, previously said.

Yellen spoke of the need for international action on a different set of issues, including climate change, a digital divide that has exacerbated global inequalities and the danger posed by cybersecurity attacks.

Bidens Treasury Secretary compared the arduous task to the Bretton Woods conference of 1944, which established the IMF and the basic framework of the global financial system after the devastation of World War II.

Although it was a different time, I sympathized with the enormous weight they faced; the pressure to come together after a global disaster to build a sustainable and interconnected system to promote world peace and prosperity, Yellen said. Our current economic situation is no less important.

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