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Middle East Economic Initiative Unveiled at G8 Summit - 2004-06-10

The Group of Eight summit in Sea Island, Georgia Wednesday unveiled an initiative to promote economic reform in the Middle East and then issued a separate statement calling for action to complete the Doha Round of trade liberalization discussions.

The unexpected statement on trade commits the summit nations to finish by the end of July a framework for resolving the difficulties that have held back progress on trade liberalization. The current round of trade talks were launched in Doha, Qatar in 2001 and were to be completed by the end of this year.

The statement applauds recent commitments by the European Union and the United States to reduce trade distorting agricultural subsidies. Addressing developing country concerns, the statement promises action to reduce subsidies to cotton growers, primarily in the United States. It calls on developing countries to match these actions with concessions of their own.

The broader middle east initiative commits the summit countries to work with Mideast and North African countries to promote democracy and free market reform. The Group of Eight is comprised of the United States, Japan, Canada, Russia and the four largest west European economies.

Summit officials say the initiative is not an attempt to impose reform on reluctant Arab and Islamic countries. Rather, they say, it is an attempt to respond to requests from countries in the region. The initiative does not commit the G8 countries to specific new assistance programs. But there will be regular meetings on economic cooperation at the ministerial level. Several Islamic leaders-including those from Turkey, Jordan, Algeria and Bahrain-participated in the G8 discussions on the initiative.

Differences on the Mideast initiative between the Americans and some European powers were resolved in large part by inserting into the document specific language calling for progress on the Israeli Palestinian roadmap to peace.