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G8 to Tackle Trade, Taxes, Transparency

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron.

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Joe DeCapua
Britain is hosting this year’s G8 summit, which gets underway next week (6/17-18) in Northern Ireland. Prime Minister David Cameron has listed the major issues he wants leaders to tackle when they gather at the Lough Erne resort.

G8 Research Center Director John Kirton said leaders have known for months the top issues on the summit agenda.

“David Cameron said back in November last year that he wanted his summit to focus on trade, tax and transparency. And since then, rising up on the agenda has been another T – terrorism -- and then of course the escalating war in Syria.”

Even before it starts, Kirton says the summit is shaping up to be one of “significant success.”

“A lot of their achievements actually come in advance – down payments – as countries try and accommodate to their partners on the long pre-announced British themes,” he said.

For example, this month’s London summit on malnutrition saw governments and business pledge an additional four billion dollars over the next seven years. That doubles current spending on malnutrition.

“So this summit has already done much good for the poorest countries and the poorest people. There’s still a lot more to be done because of course we’re all committed to reaching the eight Millennium Development Goals in 2015. That’s coming fast and a lot of them have not yet been met,” he said.

Progress, said Kirton, is also being made on trade. After four years, negotiations are in their final stage between the European Union and Canada on a Free Trade Agreement.

“So that would get the summit off to a good start. It would also give everyone in Washington the confidence that if they announce, here at Lough Erne, the start of formal negotiations for the much bigger free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States that Europe could actually deliver a big deal on a much shorter time frame, that the Americans need, than the four long years it took with Europe to get the Canadian deal done,” he said.

On the issue of taxes, the summit will address tax evasion and avoidance. The British government says the aim is to “strengthen international standards to allow countries to collect tax that is due them.” That would be done through greater sharing of information.

The third major issue of transparency concerns ownership of land and companies and business deals done with developing countries.

Kirton said, “On transparency, the key task here is to get poor governments, especially in Africa, to actually receive the money that they deserve from their vast oil and gas and mineral wealth and not have it syphoned away through bribes, through corruption. So if people would just publish what they pay – join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative – that would go a long way to keeping African money in Africa working for them.”

In recent years, some observers criticized the G8 as being obsolete, saying that the G20 was more relevant. However, Kirton said the G8 reasserted its role during the global economic crisis. Both groups, he said, are needed.

“What we see here is that David Cameron has designed this summit to do trade, tax, transparency – key economic subjects -- as well as development and security. So I think what we see now is the two Gs – G8/G20 – actually working together giving the world two summits a year at a time when you really can’t just wait for, or rely on, one.”

The G8 Research Center is based at the University of Toronto.

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