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South African President to Attend G8 summit

South African president Thabo Mbeki will take part in the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. He’ll join the leaders of India, Mexico, Brazil and China at a roundtable discussion with the G8. VOA’s Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she told Joe VOA English to Africa Service reporter De Capua that Mr. Mbeki will be accompanied to St. Petersburg by South Africa’s foreign minister.

“They’ve been invited to attend as part of the Strategic Outreach Partners group. They’re calling it the Plus Five group…and essentially they are supposed to be the leaders of the developing countries. And I know that the British Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, would like them to be included and that the G8 become the G13. At the moment they’re calling it the G8 Plus Five. But they’re going I think specifically to press issues that are important to developing nations. I think top of the agenda for some, certainly perhaps even for Mr. Mbeki, will be world trade issues,” she says.

Robertson describes how the G8 is viewed in South Africa. “There is a fair amount of skepticism among South Africans and others in the developing world about what the G8 is doing for them as opposed to what it can do. As you know, last year there was a meeting of the G8 that was hosted by Mr. Blair and a lot of promises were made about debt reduction and debt forgiveness. Some of that has happened, but other things have not happened. And so I believe one of the issues that is going to come up at the roundtable is setting up some sort of tracking mechanism. I think they’re calling it a database of G8 commitments to the developing world,” she says.

Of particular interest to South Africa, she says, are agricultural subsidies. “This is a hugely important matter because developing nations feel they just simply cannot compete, their agricultural products cannot compete in the international market as long as there are subsidies in the developed world. And Europe I think gives huge subsidies to its farmers, but so does the United States.”