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G8 Summit Concludes in St. Petersburg

The conclusion of this year’s G-8 summit brought the leaders of China, India, South Africa, Mexico, and Brazil together with heads of the world’s major industrialized powers in St. Petersburg, Russia. Economist Dr. Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute tells VOA English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser that African countries may see modest gains from the summit, compared with the huge debt forgiveness package produced at last year’s Gleneagles G8 meeting.

“I think that a united front from the G-8 through the World Trade Organization and other negotiations to help them remove tariffs from medicines is a big advance, if they actually can push that through. There’s a deal they’re trying to do for the WTO, led by Singapore and the United States. I don’t think that there was a great deal done to promote trade. I don’t think there’s much hope held out for this round, at least in the short run. And without that, all the rest of it is just window dressing.”

On Sunday, an effort to resume the Doha global trade round resulted in an agreement to extend the deadline for world trade talks into mid-August. However, it is clear that the gulf between the interests of rich and poor nations need to be bridged. The talks concern wealthier nations reducing subsidies on their agricultural products while also cutting tariffs on agricultural imports from poor countries. In exchange, the industrialized powers hope to persuade developing nations to open their markets to industrial goods and services.

Dr. Bate says that in addition to bridging these gaps, African nations need to reduce trade barriers that they have erected with other African trading partners.

“For Europe, there is a lot made of the European agricultural subsidy problem. But frankly speaking, a lot of the African nations and all of the world’s developing nations have way too high tariffs between their own countries. And that’s something that’s not covered well by the media.”

Dr. Bate believes that unless developing countries are able to lower their own trade barriers, very little will be achieved in the drive to renew a global trade pact.

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