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More Like G8 Plus One:
The European Union at Lough Erne

Guillaume Kishibe, G8 Research Group
June 28, 2013

For the G8 summit in Lough Erne, the European Union set a number of goals regarding its agenda in advance, namely conforming to the summit's general trends of trade, taxation and transparency. In addition, the EU also set a number of goals towards making progress on other issue areas such as security hazards in Syria, Iran, Mali and the Korean peninsula as well as addressing issues such as hunger. In addition, the European Council declared its intent in a speech delivered by Council president Herman Van Rompuy on June 17 to focus on the reduction of youth unemployment as a means of further stabilizing the European and global economy, given the apparent passing of the eurozone crisis.

In terms of actual achievements, however, the EU's most notable activity at the G8 has revolved around trade. The EU and the United States announced the start of talks over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Program (TTIP) in July, with the intention of expressing "our overall agenda for growth and jobs to both sides of the Atlantic by boosting trade and investment" as well as "our determination to shape an open, rules-based world" according to a speech delivered by European Commission president José Manuel Barroso on June 17. The talks are expected to conclude somewhere between the next 18 months to two years, an estimate probably coloured by the troubled lead-up to the announcement, which was almost derailed by French concerns over the inclusion of audiovisual cultural goods in the TTIP negotiations.

Although the specifics of the TTIP have yet to develop, a study conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Centre for Economics in Munich predicts that the effects of a free trade deal between the United States and the European Union would, given the degree of liberalization the TTIP would introduce, benefit mainly the United States and its trading partners in terms of growth in job numbers and gross domestic product per capita. However, the study also concludes that though global economic trends would also generally tend to benefit, comparatively trade outside the TTIP would suffer. This would namely happen through drops in jobs and growth in trade between European countries as well as in other non-TTIP trading partners such as Canada.

Besides the TTIP, the EU pursued other trade-related discussions at Lough Erne as well. On June 17, Barroso met with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and released a statement noting the progress made on the negotiations surrounding a joint strategic partnership agreement as well as a free trade agreement that had begun in March. The G8 leaders' communiqué also noted the progress made on the ongoing negotiations for a trade deal between the EU and Canada.

Aside from trade, the EU also agreed to pursue transparency and tax fraud policies. In the G8 communiqué, the EU membership committed to matching American legislation requiring publicly traded extractive companies to report their revenue to the government by adopting the EU Accounting and Transparency Directives. This would require extractive companies in the EU to report public payments to all governments in the EU. The EU also agreed to partner with Colombia, Niger and South Sudan in order to support their national initiatives to improve transparency by 2015.

In addition to the trade, tax and transparency agenda set for Lough Erne, the EU also agreed to jointly work with the E3+3 in continuing to search for a diplomatic solution to the issue of Iranian nuclear development. The EU also committed to providing an additional €400 million towards humanitarian relief in Syria, ahead of the €1 billion it has currently spent.

Overall, the EU seems to have played a surprisingly significant role at the Lough Erne. This is especially obvious considering what it has bargained effectively on behalf of its member states, among them G8 members, despite the EU not actually being a G8 member. The involvement of the EU at the summit has so far drawn its almost 30 member-states into a significant free trade deal with the United States. Beyond trade, the EU also committed its members simply to adopt transparency legislation, also seemingly on their behalf. Independently, the EU has been partnered with developing countries to foster their attempts at transparency as if it were a full G8 member, and has even demonstrated its further willingness to be involved in extra-trade matters such as the crisis in Syria on its own. Given this extensive level of apparent influence it seems reasonable to expect that despite the severe economic crisis suffered by the European Union in the past several years, it is unlikely that it will cease to play at least a significant political role in international affairs for the foreseeable future.

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