G8 Bulletin

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February 7–March 6, 2005
Volume 8, Number 19

By Bryan Brazeau, Sarah Brun, Jee Lim, Pamela Chan, Christina Jabbour, Jenny Francis, Zaria Shaw and Jeremy Rusinek
G8 Research Group

In This Issue:
Commission for Africa Meets for Final Time before Summit
Preparations Underway for G8 Gleneagles Summit
Slow Economic Growth in G8 Sparks Fears of Possible Recession
Kyoto Protocol Comes Into Effect
Bush Tours Europe
Brown Visits China
U.S. Senator Calls for Russia to be Excluded from the G8 for Nuclear Deal with Iran
Also in the G8 News
Upcoming G8 Meetings

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Commission for Africa Meets for Final Time before Summit

British Prime Minister Tony Blair hosted the final meeting of his Commission for Africa on February 24 to concentrate on finalizing the Commission’s report on how the international community can help Africa combat poverty, disease and underdevelopment. The report will be published on March 11, but a copy was leaked to the press on March 6.

After two days of meetings in London, Blair said the report will present a detailed plan for his campaign to rally support from the world’s richest countries.

"It will set out a comprehensive plan with a very powerful vision for a strong and prosperous Africa, two adjectives that at the moment applied to Africa seem hugely remote from the reality of people’s lives there," said Blair.

The leaked document calls for an end to the rampant corruption that has marred African governments for years and also urges western countries to realize the role they play in supporting and maintaining corrupt regimes.

It urges an end to rich country subsidies to agricultural industries such as sugar and cotton. It calls for these subsidies to be terminated by 2010, the dismantling of trade barriers forbidding exports from sub-Saharan Africa, an international arms treaty by 2006 to regulate the flow of weapons to the continent, complete debt cancellation for the poorest nations, a US$25 billion aid increase to sub-Saharan Africa over the next three to five years, harder punishments for bribery, increased funding for peacekeeping costs and economic reforms to produce annual growth rates of 7% by 2010. One of the report’s toughest demands on G8 nations is the need for specific commitments in 2005 on the repatriation of illicitly acquired funds and assets held in their countries and dependent territories and a report on sums returned by early 2006.

Anti-poverty campaigners remain doubtful these goals can be met. They point out that Britain’s record for prosecuting businesses that offer bribes and returning cash illegally drained off from the African continent is among one of the worst in all developed countries.

However, Blair has pledged to use Britain’s G8 chair and European Union presidency to tackle African poverty. In fulfilling this promise, Blair set up the commission to report on the plight of Africa and to generate support for a prosperous Africa. The commission comprises 17 members that come form the ranks of political leaders and aid campaigners, mostly from Africa, to help make recommendations.

Aside from convincing the international community to help Africa with areas such as good governance, infrastructure and HIV/AIDS, the commission is seeking to develop a consensus in the developed world on debt relief and international trade.

"If we mean what we say, which is that we cannot do everything for Africa, but Africa actually wants to take responsibility itself, then we cannot have a situation where we are keeping African goods out of our markets, putting tariff barriers in place, destroying the possibility of African enterprise and business doing what we want and expect for our own business and enterprise," said Blair.

In the past 25 years, Africa is the only continent that has not progressed towards eradicating poverty. Campaigners for the commission say that 6,500 people per day die of preventable diseases.

Critics are skeptical about the commission being more than rhetoric and are doubtful that there is a strong desire to help Africa’s aid deficit, to relieve its debt burden and to create fair trade regulations. Many critics said that the money spent on the report could have been pushed toward aid.

"The commission’s final report must recommend a doubling of aid, cancellation of debt and a timetable for reform of unfair trade rules," said an OXFAM represenative. "But the real questions are around how it proposes to turn these recommendations into reality."

"It is very important that Mr Blair does his homework with his colleagues in the G8," said Melese Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia and member of the commission.

Commission campaigners agree with Zenawi that Blair’s greatest challenge is to gather support from other countries, specifically the United States.

Few developed countries meet the United Nations target of 0.7% of gross national product for aid to underdeveloped countries. Meeting the target would halve the number of people who earn less than one dollar a day and have no access to clean water by 2015.

Britain has also been pushing other developed countries to support the International Finance Facility, which would increase aid to poor countries to US$100 billion from US$50 billion annually.

Zenawi expressed hope that the report would rally political will from within Africa and the international community to make the recommendations a reality.

"If we all share the feeling that defeat is too ghastly to contemplate. If we are all convinced that Africa can do it, and all it needs from you non-Africans is to give it a fighting chance, then I think the commission will have been worthwhile."

Source: Reuters, ePolitix, VOA, Government News Network, The Observer, The Guardian

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Preparations Underway for G8 Gleneagles Summit in July

On July 6-8, 2005, when the G8 leaders will meet at Gleneagles in Perthshire, Scotland, security remains a primary concern.

Officials expect protestors from across the world, yet they ardently want to avoid a repeat of the violence that occurred at the 2001 Genoa Summit. The fears of local residents have not been assuaged by an announcement from the Scottish government that compensation will not be given out to any individuals or businesses whose property is damaged or destroyed during the summit week.

The former Royal Air Force base at Turnhouse will be converted to a holding facility capable of holding up to 750 arrested suspects. Police guarding the Gleneagles Hotel plan to use stipulations in the 2001 Terrorism Act to detain and search whomever they wish. As many as 10,000 police officers, including many from London, have been drafted for the event; all police leave has been cancelled for the first two weeks of July. Furthermore, all courtrooms in the Edinburgh Sheriff Court except for one will be cleared for the cases for arrested protestors; normal trials will be cancelled for the first two weeks of July, while the courts will sit daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Prosecutors and teams of interpreters will be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Several officials are criticizing what they see as a form of paranoia, warning that such extreme precautionary measures could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sources: Sunday Herald, Scottish Daily Record, UK Daily Record

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Slow Economic Growth in G8 Sparks Fears of Possible Recession

Some analysts have expressed concern for the global economy after examining last year’s figures for the G8 economies. In light of new figures displaying disparagingly weak performance, the chief economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development predicts that recovery in these countries will be delayed by at least a quarter.

Both Germany and Japan have demonstrated lagging growth levels, although both have a strong export sector and rising trade surpluses. Analysts blame low internal consumption, pointing to Britain and the United States, which, although shouldering increasing trade deficits, have displayed continued economic growth and expansion with relatively low unemployment rates. Economist Jean-Luc Greau said that these countries are contributing "to the growth of other countries via the international expansion of their service industries, but also through consumer indebtedness which continues to increase with no sign of reversing and might pose problems in the future." Other economists, such as Gernot Neb, head of Germany’s Ifo Institute for Economic Research, interpret such low figures as a "growth hiccup" and argue that Germany and Japan will bounce back in mid 2005 on a firm economic footing.

Sources: Agence France Presse

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Kyoto Protocol Comes Into Effect

February 16 was the first day of the Kyoto Protocol being in effect, more than seven years after it was first signed. The goal of the treaty is to reduce CO2 emissions by 5.2% by 2012. Although 141 countries have signed the treaty, its effect remains questionable because the world’s largest CO2 emitter, the United States, walked out of the deal in 2001.

Since that time, the European Union and Japan have been the biggest proponents for putting the deal into effect.

Under the protocol, developing countries are not forced to reduce their emissions by a set percentage. However, the rate of pollution in rapidly developing nations such as India and China has increased significantly in recent years.

Britain’s Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has placed climate change on top of the agenda during this year’s G8 presidency and has started a dialogue within the group on climate change. Said Blair, "What I am trying to do later this year is to make sure we pull America back into a dialogue and put China and India alongside that and if we manage that I think we will get back on the right track."

French president Jacques Chirac has also called for developed countries to cut gas emissions to a quarter of current levels by 2050 – exceeding targets set by the Kyoto Protocol. He said that "we must go further – divide by four by 2050 the greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries. The next G8 summit must be an opportunity for advancing in this direction."

Germany is among the nations that has had the most success in reducing greenhouse gases – a 19% in the past years. Its goal for the protocol is 21% by 2012. German environment minister Juergen Trittin sees Kyoto as an opportunity for "enhanced cooperation in particular areas, such as an active role in promoting technology." In addition, Germany has emphasized the importance of involving the U.S. in strengthening the legitimacy of the protocol.

Canada has also announced that it will push to see the U.S. join Kyoto, having already experienced environmental degradation in the Arctic. With the leading industrial country as its southern neighbour, Canada fears that it will suffer as a result of American negligence.

Russia, which was the key country in the ratification phase, has a somewhat special position in Kyoto. Russia is theoretically capable of making money out of it. As a result of economic collapse, emission rates have already diminished by 38.5% since 1990. This means that the Russia could sell its emission quotas to nations that may be unable to reach their national goal.

Japan, the country that hosted the Kyoto talks, is such a nation, as it finds itself struggling to meet the requirements. By the end of February, 11 of 30 Japanese industries had failed to meet the emission target. Japan is actively involved in carbon trading, allowing companies to sell emission credits to each other, suggesting that the world’s second largest economy may be in the market for buying Kyoto quotas.

Italy, like Japan, is far from reaching its goal and will most likely struggle to meet the deadline.

The United States did not make a statement on the launch of the Kyoto Protocol, but continues to emphasize that it is not in the nation’s national interest to sign it. The administration claims that it would hurt the country’s economy.

It is clear from all the countries that signed the protocol that combating climate will eventually need a commitment from the United States. Although Kyoto is a milestone for environmental protection, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan took the opportunity to remind the world that "by itself, the protocol will not save humanity from the dangers of climate change, let us celebrate, but let us not be complacent ... there is no time to lose."

Sources: Agence France Presse, Reuters, Deutsche Presse Agentur, BBC, Guardian, National Post

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Bush Tours Europe

United States president George W. Bush concluded a five-day trip to Europe on February 24. The visit, his first overseas trip of his second term, included mending relationships with old friends and reinforcing his Iraq agenda. Bush’s first stop was Belgium, where he met with French president Jacques Chirac, formerly his fiercest opponent over the Iraq war; however, those arguments appeared to be left behind and Bush’s prior statements, such as about how "countries like France" will not decide when to use American force, were forgotten.

Chirac nonetheless pointed out "that just because we share common values, we don’t necessarily agree on everything all the time." The two presidents did not highlight their differences, but rather emphasized common projects, such as peacekeeping in Afghanistan, African aid and Tsunami relief efforts. They also put out a joint call for a United Nations—backed resolution to remove all Syrian troops from Lebanon and to launch a full investigation into the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister.

On February 22, Bush met with United Kingdom prime minister Tony Blair. Their main agenda item was the Middle East. Bush stated that "the Palestinian people deserve a government that is representative, honest and peaceful," adding that "the people of Israel need an end to terror and a reliable, steadfast partner for peace – and the world must not rest until there is a just and lasting resolution of this conflict." He also emphasized the importance of a strong European-U.S. relationship and characterized Blair as one of "Europe’s strong leaders." Following the breakfast, Bush also met with leaders of the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, after which all 26 NATO members agreed to support the training of Iraqi security forces, either with financial resources or personnel. The EU and the U.S. will co-host a forum to coordinate aid to Iraq.

Bush continued to Germany to meet Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, where they emphasized unity, peace in the Middle East and Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. Schroeder raised the issue of climate change, saying that "irrespective of the question of whether Kyoto is the right tool to be going about things," the world’s two largest economies could work together to develop new technologies to combat global warming. The U.S., which has not signed the Kyoto protocol, release a statement following the meeting with Schroeder that said: "The United States and Germany will broaden and reinforce their activities in three areas of common action to improve energy security and reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, while supporting strong economic growth."

Bush’s last stop on the trip was Slovakia, where he met with the Russian president Vladimir Putin. Bush greeted the Slovaks as "friends, allies, brothers" thanking them for sending troops to Iraq. He hailed the country as an example saying, "you are showing that a small nation built on a big idea can spread democracy throughout the world." Bush and Putin discussed nuclear arms, reaching an agreement that Iran should not have nuclear weapons. "I appreciate Vladimir’s understanding on that," Bush said. "We agreed that North Korea should not have a nuclear weapon." This was an important statement as the Russians have suggested providing the Iranians with nuclear fuel, despite Washington putting pressure on them. Bush expressed his concern about the state of Russian democracy, to which Putin replied by reminding the world that "Russia has made its choice in favour of democracy 14 years ago, independently without pressure from the outside, this is our final choice, and we have no way back."

The trip was not, however, all friendly. Protestors had gathered at all three destinations to remind Bush that Europe was still very much divided about the war in Iraq.

Sources: CNN, Associated Press, United Press, Agence France Presse

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Brown Visits China

On February 23, Britain’s finance minister Gordon Brown visited Shenzhen, China, and extended an invitation to China to attend the G8 Gleneagles Summit this July. Brown was visiting a factory in a town bordering Hong Kong.

On his three-day visit, Brown’s agenda included a call on China to liberalize exchange rates. At 8.82 yen to the dollar, China’s exports are significantly less expensive, making it difficult for other countries to compete. Brown also urged the country to undertake corporate social responsibility.

Earlier in February, China participated in the meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bankers in London. Nevertheless, Brown stated there are no intentions of inviting China to become a member of the G8.

Britain holds the presidency of both the G7 and G8. It agreed to work with China on the world’s economic problems for the G20 meeting of financing ministers and central bank governors, which China is chairing this year.

Sources: Reuters, Agence France Post, Birmingham Post, Scotsman

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U.S. Senator Calls for Russia to be Excluded from the G8 for Nuclear Deal with Iran

U.S. senator John McCain called for Russia to be excluded from the G8 on February 27 after Russia signed a new nuclear deal with Iran.

The agreement would send nuclear fuel to Iran for power generation on the condition that spent nuclear fuel is returned to Russia. In the past year, the United States and the European Union have accused Iran of enriching uranium for weapon building purposes.

Russian defence minister Sergei Lavrov responded by saying "the Russian side has established very close cooperation with the EU troika in order to guarantee the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program and full compliance with the resolutions of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] Governing Council..

U.S. senators have also recently called for Russia’s exclusion from the G8 on grounds of undemocratic moves taken by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Sources: BBC, Fox News, ITAR-TASS, Izvestia

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