Political leaders from around the world are meeting this week at the United Nations in New York. And while there are plenty of important things on the official agenda, arguably the most interesting meetings are happening on the sidelines, like UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s meeting on Monday with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Bezos and his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, met with Prime Minister Johnson at the UK diplomatic residence on Monday, where the group reportedly discussed the billionaire’s recent pledge to give $1 billion towards environmental conservation.
Amazon’s tax dodging and shitty record on workers’ rights were also reportedly on the agenda, and while Bezos is no longer CEO of the online retailing giant, he’s still on the board of directors. Amazon reportedly paid just £492 million ($673 million US) in taxes to the UK in 2020 on a reported £4.85 billion ($6.6 billion US) in sales.
“The prime minister raised the issue of taxation, and hoped progress could be in implementing the G7 agreement on tax,” an unnamed spokesperson from Downing Street told Yahoo News UK.
The G7 agreement on taxes is an effort to set up a kind of minimum corporate tax rate among wealthy countries so that huge companies aren’t shopping around to get the best tax rates. Apple, for example, has its European headquarters in Ireland merely on paper in an effort to avoid taxes. Meanwhile, Ireland doesn’t even have an Apple Store.
“The prime minister welcomed the Bezos Earth Fund’s commitment, announced tonight, to give $1 billion to protect forests and remove carbon from the air. The prime minister and Mr Bezos agreed to work together to see what more could be done in the run up to and at COP26,” the Downing Street spokesperson continued.
Domestically, the UK press made a big deal a few days ago that Johnson was going to demand that Amazon start paying its fair share in taxes. But even conservative news outlets couldn’t ignore that Johnson was planning to “congratulate” Bezos for his recent commitment of $1 billion to climate change initiatives through his own charity, the Bezos Earth Fund. Bezos, who’s worth an estimated $200.6 billion and is the world’s wealthiest man, gets to write off these kinds of contributions on his taxes through incredibly complex schemes.
In fact, even Johnson used the word “congratulate” on his trip over to New York while discussing his agenda with the press. This was far from a hostile meeting, from outward appearances, no matter how Johnson boosters wanted to play it.
Other interesting meetings happening on the sidelines this week include the conservative Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison meeting with Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corp., which owns Fox News, along with other far-right media outlets around the world. Morrison and Murdoch reportedly had dinner last night.
President Joe Biden is scheduled to address the UN assembly this morning at 10:00 a.m. ET, and then meeting with Prime Minister Morrison at noon. Biden leaves New York to head back to the White House at 2:15 p.m. ET, according to his official schedule.
But like we said, keep your eyes open for those meetings on the sidelines. No matter who’s in charge at any given moment, those are where the real interesting stuff is happening.