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Treasury Puts Taiwan on Notice for Currency Practices

The Treasury Department said on Friday that it was putting Taiwan, Vietnam and Switzerland on notice over their currency practices, but it struck a more conciliatory tone than the Trump administration by stopping short of labeling any of them a currency manipulator.

The announcement came in the Treasury Department’s first foreign exchange report under Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen. The report, which Treasury submits to Congress twice a year, aims to hold the United States’ top trading partners accountable if they try to gain an unfair advantage in commerce between nations through practices such as devaluing their currencies.

Being labeled a currency manipulator requires a trading partner to enter into negotiations with the United States and the International Monetary Fund to address the situation. The blemish is somewhat symbolic but can lead to tariffs or other forms of retaliation if talks collapse.

Both Switzerland and Vietnam had been on the list of currency manipulators after the Trump administration added them last year, and their removal on Friday means no country currently faces that designation. Still, Treasury said there were signs that Switzerland, Vietnam and Taiwan were improperly managing their currencies.

Vietnam and Switzerland as manipulators in its final report in 2020, but the Biden administration said there was insufficient evidence to support the designation. To receive the label, Treasury must conclude that a country manipulates the exchange rate between its currency and the dollar for “purposes of preventing effective balance of payments adjustments or gaining unfair competitive advantage in international trade.”

wrote a report concluding that Taiwan was hiding $130 billion in reserves to mask its currency interventions and that the case for naming it a manipulator was stronger than the case for naming China.

“Taiwan really has been intervening on a large scale to maintain an undervalued currency for competitive advantage,” Mr. Setser wrote on Twitter at the time.

The Treasury Department did not label China as a currency manipulator, instead urging it to improve transparency over its foreign exchange practices.

Treasury kept China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand on its currency monitoring list, and added Ireland and Mexico.

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Lee Delaney, C.E.O. of BJ’s Wholesale Club, dies unexpectedly

Lee Delaney, the president and chief executive of BJ’s Wholesale Club, died unexpectedly on Thursday of “presumed natural causes,” according to a statement released Friday by the company. He was 49.

“We are shocked and profoundly saddened by the passing of Lee Delaney,” said Christopher J. Baldwin, the company’s executive chairman, said in a statement. “Lee was a brilliant and humble leader who cared deeply for his colleagues, his family and his community.”

Mr. Delaney joined BJ’s in 2016 as executive vice president and chief growth officer. He was promoted to president in 2019 and became chief executive last year. Before joining BJ’s, he was a partner in the Boston office of Bain & Company from 1996 to 2016. Mr. Delaney earned a master’s in business administration from Carnegie Mellon University, and attended the University of Massachusetts, where he pursued a double major in computer science and mathematics.

Mr. Delaney led the company through the unexpected changes in consumer demand spurred by the pandemic, with many customers stockpiling wholesale goods as they hunkered down at home. “2020 was a remarkable, transformative and challenging year that structurally changed our business for the better,” Mr. Delaney said in the company’s last quarterly earnings report.

The BJ’s board appointed Bob Eddy, the chief administrative and financial officer, to serve as the company’s interim chief executive. Mr. Eddy joined the company in 2007 and became the chief financial officer in 2011, adding the job of chief administrative officer in 2018.

“Bob partnered closely with Lee and has played an integral role in transforming and growing BJ’s Wholesale Club,” Mr. Baldwin said. He said that the company would announce decisions about its permanent executive leadership in a “reasonably short timeframe.”

BJ’s, based in Westborough, Mass., operates 221 clubs and 151 BJ’s Gas locations in 17 states.

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In Suez Canal, Stuck Ship Is a Warning About Excessive Globalization

LONDON — The world got another warning this week about the perils of its heavy reliance on global supply chains. As a single ship ran aground in the Suez Canal, shutting down traffic in both directions, international commerce confronted a monumental traffic jam with potentially grave consequences.

The troubled craft is not just any vessel. The Ever Given is one of the world’s largest container ships, with space for 20,000 metal boxes carrying goods across the sea. And the Suez Canal is not just any waterway. It is a vital channel linking the factories of Asia to the affluent customers of Europe, as well as a major conduit for oil.

The fact that one mishap could sow fresh chaos from Los Angeles to Rotterdam to Shanghai underscored the extent to which modern commerce has come to revolve around truly global supply chains.

In recent decades, management experts and consulting firms have championed so-called just-in-time manufacturing to limit costs and boost profits. Rather than waste money stockpiling extra goods in warehouses, companies can depend on the magic of the internet and the global shipping industry to summon what they need as they need it.

letter to all employees last March. “Masks remain in short supply globally.”

energy prices rose on Wednesday, though they pulled back on Thursday. Some are carrying electronics, and clothing, and exercise equipment.

None of them are getting where they are supposed to until the waylaid ship is freed. Each day the stalemate continues holds up goods worth $9.6 billion, according to a Bloomberg analysis.

shipping industry, which has been overwhelmed by the pandemic and its reordering of world trade.

As Americans have contended with lockdowns, they have ordered vast quantities of factory goods from Asia: exercise bikes to compensate for the closure of gyms; printers and computer monitors to turn bedrooms into offices; baking equipment and toys to entertain children cooped up at home.

The surge of orders has exhausted the supply of containers at ports in China. The cost of shipping a container from Asia to North America has more than doubled since November. And at ports from Los Angeles to Seattle, the unloading of those containers has been slowed as dockworkers and truck drivers have been struck by Covid-19 or forced to stay home to attend to children who are out of school.

Delays in unloading spell delays in loading the next shipment. Agricultural exporters in the American Midwest have struggled to secure containers to send soybeans and grains to food processors and animal feed suppliers in Southeast Asia.

This situation has held for four months, while showing few signs of easing. Retailers in North America have been frantically restocking depleted inventories, putting a strain on shipping companies in what is normally the slack season on trans-Pacific routes.

The blockage of the Suez Canal effectively sidelines more containers. The question is how long this lasts.

Two weeks could strand as much as one-fourth of the supply of containers that would normally be in European ports, estimated Christian Roeloffs, chief executive officer of xChange, a shipping consultant in Hamburg, Germany.

“Considering the current container shortage, it just increases the turnaround time for the ships,” Mr. Roeloffs said.

Three-fourths of all container ships traveling from Asia to Europe arrived late in February, according to Sea-Intelligence, a research company in Copenhagen. Even a few days of disruption in the Suez could exacerbate that situation.

If the Suez remains clogged for more than a few days, the stakes would rise drastically. Ships now stuck in the canal will find it difficult to turn around and pursue other routes given the narrowness of the channel.

Those now en route to the Suez may opt to head south and navigate around Africa, adding weeks to their journeys and burning additional fuel — a cost ultimately borne by consumers.

Whenever ships again move through the canal, they are likely to arrive at busy ports all at once, forcing many to wait before they can unload — an additional delay.

“This could make a really bad crisis even worse,” said Alan Murphy, the founder of Sea-Intelligence.

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With a Police Raid and the Threat of Export Curbs on Vaccines, the E.U. Plays Tough

BRUSSELS — Tipped off by European authorities, a team of Italian police inspectors descended on a vaccine-manufacturing facility outside Rome over the weekend. They discovered 29 million doses of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines, feeding suspicions that the company was trying to spirit them overseas instead of distributing them in the European Union.

Four days of checks later, Italian officials accepted AstraZeneca’s explanation that the doses were going through quality control before being shipped to the developing world, and to European countries.

The cinematic raid — intended to put a little muscle behind European Union threats to make the company stop exporting doses — now stands as a vivid example of just how desperate the hunt for vaccines is getting. It was also a sign of the continuing tensions between the bloc and those it suspects might be cheating.

On Wednesday the bloc flexed its powers even more, unveiling emergency rules that grant it broad authority to halt exports of Covid vaccines made in the E.U., escalating an uncharacteristically protectionist stance and risking a fresh crisis in its fragile relations with Britain, a former member.

very advanced in its vaccination campaign and therefore is seen as less needy.

The new rules encourage blocking shipments to countries that do not export vaccines to the European Union or to countries that have “a higher vaccination rate” than the European Union “or where the current epidemiological situation is less serious” than in the bloc.

The European Commission tried to explain why the export measures were necessary.

“Nineteen countries are now reporting increasing case numbers, 15 member states are reporting increased hospital ICU admissions, while eight member states are now reporting increased numbers of deaths,” said Stella Kyriakides, the bloc’s health commissioner.

“This is where we stand today, we’re dealing with a pandemic,’’ she added. ‘‘And this is not seeking to punish any countries. We are the strongest supporters of global solidarity.”

With the threat of export restrictions hanging in the air, the British government and the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, struck a conciliatory tone.

“Given our interdependencies, we are working on specific steps we can take — in the short, medium and long term — to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens” a joint statement issued Wednesday said.

The E.U. has come under criticism at home for permitting exports in the first place, when the United States and Britain practically locked up domestic production for domestic use through contracts with pharmaceutical companies. Until now, the E.U. blocked only a single small shipment to Australia on the grounds that the country was virtually Covid-free.

E.U. officials said the new rules would allow a degree of discretion, meaning they won’t result in a blanket ban on exports, and the officials still expected many exports to continue.

But the measures caused discomfort in many E.U. countries, including the Netherlands and Belgium — both home to major vaccine-exporting factories — and added to worries about disruptions to global supply chains as well as damage to their reputations. Others, such as France and Italy, were happy to see the E.U. take tougher action. E.U. leaders were set to meet via teleconference to discuss the situation Thursday.

“With this mechanism we have a certain leverage, so we can engage in discussion with other major vaccine producers,” Valdis Dombrovskis, the bloc’s trade czar, said at a news briefing Wednesday.

“Despite the fact that the E.U. is one of the global hot spots of the pandemic, the E.U. is at the same time also the second largest exporter of vaccines,” Mr. Dombrovskis said.

From the E.U. perspective, things are so dire that experts argue the export curbs shouldn’t draw shock or consternation.

“In a situation where 70 million doses have been delivered to the E.U. and 40 million have been exported, I do think you don’t have to be too shy about it,” said Guntram Wolff, director of the Brussels-based Bruegel think tank.

“I would have preferred the Commission had fixed this issue earlier with better contracts, but from an ethical point of view, how can you justify shipping a vaccine to the U.K. for a 30-year old to be vaccinated, when a 70-year-old in Belgium is still waiting?”

Mr. Wolff said that trading partners such as Britain should cut the E.U. some slack because of the circumstances, but noted the more aggressive approach was risky.

“At the end of the day, how many more vaccines can you get and what is the risk? An escalation, a trade war, and if supply chains get disrupted, a net-negative outcome for everyone because the overall supply of vaccine goes down,” he said.

These were good reasons, he added, to keep the export control option for leverage but avoid using it as much as possible.

Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting from Siena, Italy; Monika Pronczuk from Brussels and Benjamin Mueller from London.

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Cache of 29 Million AstraZeneca Doses in Italy Raises E.U. Suspicions

BRUSSELS — A stockpile of 29 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine that were found languishing in a facility in Italy became the new flash point on Wednesday in the conflict between the pharmaceutical company and the European Union, as the bloc prepared to unveil stringent export restrictions primarily meant to stop drugmakers from sending doses abroad.

The Italian authorities found the vaccines in a site visit, European Union officials said, at a factory near Rome that is contracted to fill and finish Covid-19 vaccine vials for AstraZeneca.

The Italian authorities went to the site after receiving an alert from the European Commission, which found a discrepancy between what the company said it was producing in European Union facilities, and what the facilities themselves were reporting.

The presence of so many doses raised suspicions that the pharmaceutical company was trying to find a way to export them to Britain or elsewhere, something the bloc has demanded that AstraZeneca stop doing until the company fulfills its promises for deliveries.

daily La Stampa, was bound for Britain. They said the company, when confronted about the doses, said that 16 million doses were bound for the E.U. market and 13 million to countries under the Covax initiative that aims to get doses to poorer nations. Those latter exports would be exempt from E.U. controls, as they are deemed to be of humanitarian nature.

AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The officials said they had asked AstraZeneca for additional information about where the active ingredient in the vaccine vials found in Italy had been manufactured — a question aimed at forcing the company to provide more information about its supply chain and production capacity.

For AstraZeneca, the dispute over the Italian doses was the latest in a series of communications blunders with health officials on both sides of the Atlantic that have soured the company’s relationship with several governments.

Some American officials learned about a snag in the company’s clinical trials last year from the news media. The company’s U.S. trial was paused for nearly seven weeks last fall, in part because AstraZeneca was slow to provide American regulators with evidence that the vaccine had not caused a neurological illness. (Investigators later concluded the symptoms were not linked to the vaccine.)

But analysts believe that some of AstraZeneca’s manufacturing difficulties are also a reflection of the company’s ambitious global distribution plans. It had intended to make as many as three billion doses this year, in part by contracting its manufacturing to plants all over the world. Other vaccine makers, by contrast, are relying on only a few facilities.

That global network of factories, analysts said, had the potential to create complications in the company’s supply chain, though it is also part of what has made the vaccine so critical to the global vaccination effort.

Benjamin Mueller contributed reporting from London.

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Where Europe Went Wrong in Its Vaccine Rollout, and Why

BRUSSELS — The calls began in December, as the United States prepared to administer its first batches of Covid-19 vaccine. Even then, it was clear that the European Union was a few weeks behind, and its leaders wanted to know what they could learn from their American counterparts.

The questions were the same, from President Emmanuel Macron of France, President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission, and Alexander De Croo, the prime minister of Belgium.

“How did you do it?” Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the United States vaccine czar, recalled them asking on the calls. “And what do you think we missed?”

Since then, the rollout gap between Europe and the United States has only widened, and some of the countries hardest hit early in the pandemic are facing a deadly third wave of infections. France, large parts of Italy, and other regions are back in lockdown. Roughly 20,000 Europeans die of Covid-19 each week.

temporarily halt the distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Most of them resumed using it on Friday, after Europe’s top drug regulator vouched for its safety, but public confidence in the shot has been badly shaken.

Vaccine salvation remains, for now, still tantalizingly out of reach. Only about 10 percent of Europeans have received a first dose, compared with 23 percent in the United States and 39 percent in Britain.

There is no single culprit. Rather, a cascade of small decisions have led to increasingly long delays. The bloc was comparatively slow to negotiate contracts with drugmakers. Its regulators were cautious and deliberative in approving some vaccines. Europe also bet on vaccines that did not pan out or, significantly, had supply disruptions. And national governments snarled local efforts in red tape.

leaders pointing fingers over why some of the world’s richest countries, home to factories that churn out vast quantities of vaccine, cannot keep pace with other wealthy nations in injecting its people.

Compared with nearly all the rest of the world, the European Union is in an admirable position. Its leaders say it remains feasible to vaccinate 70 percent of the Continent by this summer. The bloc has ordered enough doses to fully vaccinate its population at least three times, to the consternation of countries that will wait years for full coverage.

But Europeans are stung, especially, to see Britain’s rollout going so well after the country exited the bloc. Everyone wants to know why the E.U. has not triumphed.

The European Union trailed the United States and Britain from the start.

Washington had already spent billions on clinical trials and manufacturing by the time Europe decided to pool its resources and negotiate as a bloc. In mid-June, the European Commission, the bloc’s executive branch, announced a joint vaccine purchase with a $3.2 billion pot.

$10 billion budget. European officials say it’s unfair to compare the two figures because neither amount is a complete picture of all the money spent on vaccines. But there is no dispute that in Washington, officials had decided that money was no object if vaccines could avert the economic cost of a lockdown. Europe, on the other hand, was on a tight budget, so its negotiators chased cheaper doses.

“Pricing has been important since the beginning,” Sandra Gallina, the E.U.’s main vaccine negotiator, told lawmakers in February. “We are talking about taxpayers’ money.”

AstraZeneca has slashed its delivery plans, telling European leaders that it would hand over 100 million fewer doses by the middle of the year, according to the commission’s president, Ms. von der Leyen.

Only one in five French people now trust the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to a poll by the Elabe Institute published Tuesday.

Now Europe is striking a more aggressive tone about protecting its interests. Italy blocked a small shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia earlier this month. Ms. von der Leyen upped the ante this week, threatening to use an emergency mechanism, last used during the 1970s oil crisis, that would allow the bloc to seize production of vaccines.

“It is hard to explain to our citizens why vaccines produced in the E.U. are going to other countries,” Ms. von der Leyen said.

Early this month, Toon Vanagt, a Belgian tech entrepreneur, accompanied his 77-year-old father to a vaccination center north of Brussels. Mr. Vanagt, 47, was not eligible for the vaccine himself, but a worker there offered him a leftover shot, which he gladly accepted.

software companies have rushed to link patients with doses that would otherwise expire. But in Belgium, when Mr. Vanagt tweeted that he had been vaccinated, it became a mini scandal. Health officials rebuked the vaccine center, which quickly apologized: “A minor communication problem, very quickly rectified.”

Belgium’s rollout is one example of the Continent’s rigid approach to following vaccination guidelines. In a country where nursing home infections led to one of the highest per capita death tolls, the policy was intended to strictly prioritize the neediest residents.

Many European countries are also stockpiling doses to guarantee that everyone who receives a first injection will receive the second dose on time. The United States and Britain have been more flexible, erring on the side of giving more first injections.

“In the U.S., there is a much more flexible, liberal system and you just vaccinate people who come along. Same in the U.K. And it can go quicker. Here it is quite regulated,’’ said Steven Van Gucht, the Belgian government’s top virologist, who said it was too soon to know which system is better.

Administrative hiccups have exacerbated the problems. In Frankfurt, Elke Morgenstern was escorted out of a vaccine center because she enrolled using the wrong online application. “It was embarrassing,” said Ms. Morgenstern, adding that she qualified for a vaccine because of a pre-existing condition.

Because of the AstraZeneca shortages, she cannot book another appointment before May.

“It is a catastrophe how they are handling things here,” she said.

In the Lombardy region of Italy, once the epicenter of the pandemic, the vaccination campaign got off to a slow start in part because the top health care official refused to marshal medical workers over the Christmas holidays. Technical difficulties worsened the problems at the region’s vaccination centers.

“Some sessions were empty,” said Paola Pedrini, the regional secretary general for Italy’s family doctors federation. “For some others, they called 900 people when they could only vaccinate 600.”

For all the problems, Dr. Slaoui said Europeans are in an admirable position. By the numbers, the Continent is about five weeks behind the United States, with vaccine supply expected to increase steadily. “It’s too late to have taken the first bite,” he said. “But they’re in a good place.”

Dr. Van Gucht, of Belgium, agreed. But he said European leaders will likely take nationalistic lessons from the past months.

“I think we relied a little bit too much on the free markets,” he said. “What you really need to do from the beginning is really make sure you produce the vaccines on your territory and that they’re destined for your own population.”

Jason Horowitz and Emma Bubola contributed reporting from Italy and Melissa Eddy from Berlin.

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President Biden Takes 1st Tentative Steps to Address Global Covid-19 Vaccine Shortage

WASHINGTON — President Biden, under intense pressure to donate excess coronavirus vaccines to needy nations, moved on Friday to address the global shortage in another way, partnering with Japan, India and Australia to expand global vaccine manufacturing capacity.

In a deal announced at the so-called Quad Summit, a virtual meeting of leaders of the four countries, the Biden administration committed to providing financial support to help Biological E, a major vaccine manufacturer in India, produce at least 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines by the end of 2022.

That would address an acute vaccine shortage in Southeast Asia and beyond without risking domestic political blowback from exporting doses in the coming months, as Americans clamor for their shots.

The United States has fallen far behind China, India and Russia in the race to marshal coronavirus vaccines as an instrument of diplomacy. At the same time, Mr. Biden is facing accusations of vaccine hoarding from global health advocates who want his administration to channel supplies to needy nations that are desperate for access.

sit idly in American manufacturing facilities.

“If we have a surplus, we’re going to share it with the rest of the world,” Mr. Biden said this week, adding, “We’re going to start off making sure Americans are taken care of first, but we’re then going to try and help the rest of the world.”

In fact, the president has a lot of work ahead of him domestically to make good on the promises he has made in recent days: that all states must make all adults eligible for vaccinations by May 1, that enough vaccine doses will exist by the end of May to inoculate every American adult, and that by July 4, if Americans continue to follow public health guidance, life should be returning to a semblance of normalcy.

Vaccine supply appears on track to fulfill those goals, but the president must still create the infrastructure to administer the doses and overcome reluctance in large sectors of the population to take them.

Still, Mr. Biden has also made restoring U.S. leadership a centerpiece of his foreign policy agenda after his predecessor frayed alliances and strained relationships with allies and global partners. His secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, said in a recent BBC interview that a global vaccination campaign would be part of that effort; Washington, he said, was “determined” to be an “international leader” on vaccinations.

according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The authoritarian governments of China and Russia, which are less buffeted by domestic public opinion, are already using vaccines to expand their spheres of influence. While the Biden administration plans its strategy to counter China’s growing global clout, Beijing is burnishing its image by shipping vaccines to dozens of countries on several continents, including in Africa, Latin America and particularly in its Southeast Asian backyard.

Russia has supplied vaccines to Eastern European nations, including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, at a time when Biden officials want to keep the European Union unified against Russian influence on the continent.

new variants emerging in the United States and around the world, public health experts say vaccinating people overseas is also necessary to protect Americans.

“It has to be sold to Americans as an essential strategy to make Americans safe and secure over the long term, and it has to be sold to a highly divided, toxic America,” said J. Stephen Morrison, a global health expert at the Centers for Strategic and International Studies. “I don’t think that’s impossible. I think Americans are beginning to understand that in a world of variants, everything that happens outside our borders ups the urgency to move really fast.”

Mr. Blinken said as much to the BBC: “Until everyone in the world is vaccinated, then no one is really fully safe.”

The Quad Vaccine Partnership announced at the summit meeting on Friday involves different commitments from each of the nations, according to the White House.

Beyond assistance for the Indian vaccine manufacturer, the United States pledged at least $100 million to bolster vaccination capacity abroad and aid public health efforts. Japan, it said, is “in discussions” to provide loans for the Indian government to expand manufacturing of vaccines for export and will aid vaccination programs for developing countries. Australia will contribute $77 million to provide vaccines and delivery support with a focus on Southeast Asia.

The four countries will also form aQuad Vaccine Experts Group oftop scientists and government officials who will work to address manufacturing hurdles and financing plans.

secure an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

The administration has said those efforts are aimed at having enough vaccine for children, booster doses to confront new variants and unforeseen events. But Jeffrey D. Zients, Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters on Friday that the deal between Johnson & Johnson and Merck would also “help expand capacity and ultimately benefits the world.”

In addition to resisting a push to give away excess doses, Mr. Biden has drawn criticism from liberal Democrats by blocking a request by India and South Africa for a temporary waiver to an international intellectual property agreement that would give poorer countries easier access to generic versions of coronavirus vaccines and treatments.

“I understand why we should be prioritizing our supply with Americans — it was paid for by American taxpayers, President Biden is president of America,” said Representative Ro Khanna, a liberal Democrat from California. “But there is no reason we have to prioritize the profits of pharmaceutical companies over the dignity of people in other countries.”

donation of $4 billion to Covax, the international vaccine initiative backed by the World Health Organization. David Bryden, the director of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, a nonprofit aimed at supporting health workers in low- and middle-income countries, said money was also desperately needed to help train and pay those workers to administer vaccines overseas.

President George W. Bush responded to the AIDS crisis in Africa in the 2000s with a huge investment of public health funding. More than a decade later, Mr. Bush and the United States remain venerated across much of the continent for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, which the government says spent $85 billion and saved 20 million lives.

Michael Gerson, a former White House speechwriter under Mr. Bush and a policy adviser who helped devise the Pepfar program, said that its effect had been both moral and strategic, and that the program had earned the United States “a tremendous amount of good will” in Africa.

“I think the principle here should be that the people who need it most should get it no matter where they live,” he said. “It doesn’t make much moral sense to give a healthy American 24-year-old the vaccine before a frontline worker in Liberia.”

But, he added, “that’s very hard for an American politician to explain.”

Ana Swanson contributed reporting

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Biden Takes First Tentative Steps to Address Global Vaccine Shortage

WASHINGTON — President Biden, under intense pressure to donate excess coronavirus vaccines to needy nations, moved on Friday to address the global shortage in another way, partnering with Japan, India and Australia to expand global vaccine manufacturing capacity.

In a deal announced at the so-called Quad Summit, a virtual meeting of leaders of the four countries, the Biden administration committed to providing financial support to help Biological E, a major vaccine manufacturer in India, produce at least 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines by the end of 2022.

That would address an acute vaccine shortage in Southeast Asia and beyond without risking domestic political blowback from exporting doses in the coming months, as Americans clamor for their shots.

The United States has fallen far behind China, India and Russia in the race to marshal coronavirus vaccines as an instrument of diplomacy. At the same time, Mr. Biden is facing accusations of vaccine hoarding from global health advocates who want his administration to channel supplies to needy nations that are desperate for access.

sit idly in American manufacturing facilities.

“If we have a surplus, we’re going to share it with the rest of the world,” Mr. Biden said this week, adding, “We’re going to start off making sure Americans are taken care of first, but we’re then going to try and help the rest of the world.”

In fact, the president has a lot of work ahead of him domestically to make good on the promises he has made in recent days: that all states must make all adults eligible for vaccinations by May 1, that enough vaccine doses will exist by the end of May to inoculate every American adult, and that by July 4, if Americans continue to follow public health guidance, life should be returning to a semblance of normalcy.

Vaccine supply appears on track to fulfill those goals, but the president must still create the infrastructure to administer the doses and overcome reluctance in large sectors of the population to take them.

Still, Mr. Biden has also made restoring U.S. leadership a centerpiece of his foreign policy agenda after his predecessor frayed alliances and strained relationships with allies and global partners. His secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, said in a recent BBC interview that a global vaccination campaign would be part of that effort; Washington, he said, was “determined” to be an “international leader” on vaccinations.

according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The authoritarian governments of China and Russia, which are less buffeted by domestic public opinion, are already using vaccines to expand their spheres of influence. While the Biden administration plans its strategy to counter China’s growing global clout, Beijing is burnishing its image by shipping vaccines to dozens of countries on several continents, including in Africa, Latin America and particularly in its Southeast Asian backyard.

Russia has supplied vaccines to Eastern European nations, including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, at a time when Biden officials want to keep the European Union unified against Russian influence on the continent.

new variants emerging in the United States and around the world, public health experts say vaccinating people overseas is also necessary to protect Americans.

“It has to be sold to Americans as an essential strategy to make Americans safe and secure over the long term, and it has to be sold to a highly divided, toxic America,” said J. Stephen Morrison, a global health expert at the Centers for Strategic and International Studies. “I don’t think that’s impossible. I think Americans are beginning to understand that in a world of variants, everything that happens outside our borders ups the urgency to move really fast.”

Mr. Blinken said as much to the BBC: “Until everyone in the world is vaccinated, then no one is really fully safe.”

The Quad Vaccine Partnership announced at the summit meeting on Friday involves different commitments from each of the nations, according to the White House.

Beyond assistance for the Indian vaccine manufacturer, the United States pledged at least $100 million to bolster vaccination capacity abroad and aid public health efforts. Japan, it said, is “in discussions” to provide loans for the Indian government to expand manufacturing of vaccines for export and will aid vaccination programs for developing countries. Australia will contribute $77 million to provide vaccines and delivery support with a focus on Southeast Asia.

The four countries will also form aQuad Vaccine Experts Group oftop scientists and government officials who will work to address manufacturing hurdles and financing plans.

secure an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

The administration has said those efforts are aimed at having enough vaccine for children, booster doses to confront new variants and unforeseen events. But Jeffrey D. Zients, Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters on Friday that the deal between Johnson & Johnson and Merck would also “help expand capacity and ultimately benefits the world.”

In addition to resisting a push to give away excess doses, Mr. Biden has drawn criticism from liberal Democrats by blocking a request by India and South Africa for a temporary waiver to an international intellectual property agreement that would give poorer countries easier access to generic versions of coronavirus vaccines and treatments.

“I understand why we should be prioritizing our supply with Americans — it was paid for by American taxpayers, President Biden is president of America,” said Representative Ro Khanna, a liberal Democrat from California. “But there is no reason we have to prioritize the profits of pharmaceutical companies over the dignity of people in other countries.”

donation of $4 billion to Covax, the international vaccine initiative backed by the World Health Organization. David Bryden, the director of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, a nonprofit aimed at supporting health workers in low- and middle-income countries, said money was also desperately needed to help train and pay those workers to administer vaccines overseas.

President George W. Bush responded to the AIDS crisis in Africa in the 2000s with a huge investment of public health funding. More than a decade later, Mr. Bush and the United States remain venerated across much of the continent for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, which the government says spent $85 billion and saved 20 million lives.

Michael Gerson, a former White House speechwriter under Mr. Bush and a policy adviser who helped devise the Pepfar program, said that its effect had been both moral and strategic, and that the program had earned the United States “a tremendous amount of good will” in Africa.

“I think the principle here should be that the people who need it most should get it no matter where they live,” he said. “It doesn’t make much moral sense to give a healthy American 24-year-old the vaccine before a frontline worker in Liberia.”

But, he added, “that’s very hard for an American politician to explain.”

Ana Swanson contributed reporting

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