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Press Briefing by Senior Canadian Officials
Sea Island, June 8, 2004, 18h45

SENIOR CANADIAN OFFICIAL: Thanks very much, and let me just spend a few minutes, if I could, outlining for you what tomorrow's activities will be at the Summit.

The leaders will convene early in the morning and begin a discussion on the economic situation. This will have three components to it, roughly. The first is a general overview of the performance of the global economy. It is a relatively good time for the global economy, although there are some issues on the horizon that leaders will want to discuss. I know that our Prime Minister has indicated that he will wish to raise the issue of oil prices and the way in which oil pricing could affect the global economy.

There will also be, undoubtedly, a general discussion on global trade, the status of the Doha Round, and the leader commitment to make progress in the course of the summer – particularly focusing on July – for framework discussions at the ministerial level. And there will be a discussion in the economic section tomorrow, as well, on the power of entrepreneurship and development.

This very much builds on the work of the U.N. Commission – the so-called Martin-Zedillo report, which speaks to the role of the private sector in transformation of development and encouraging development in the underdeveloped world, the developing economies, in a number of aspects.

The second cluster of issues to be dealt with will be under the broad rubric of the broader Middle East and North Africa initiative. This will involve both a political statement of response to the voices of reform from the region. We've had a number of those voices give expression in the last number of months, beginning with the United Nations development program's Middle East social development report, which called for a reform of social, economic and political institutions.

More recently, we've had the SONA Declaration, the Alexandria Library Declaration and, of course, very recently, the Arab League Summit calling for continued and enhanced effort and focus on reform. The G8 political statement will respond to those voices. That would also, of course, lead to an action plan.

In this context, leaders will also be discussing Iraq, which is very much on our minds, particularly with the successful and unanimous resolution in the Security Council – something that will be welcomed.

The lunch tomorrow will involve an outreach lunch with a number of leaders from the broader Middle East and North Africa. The list as of today includes Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Yemen. This will give leaders an opportunity to meet with voices from the region and discuss the initiatives that they are putting forward.

The afternoon session will focus on security issues – two vollies of importance: one is the so-called "safety initiative," which is the secure and facilitated travel. This, for Canadians, is very much building on the smart border initiative and taking it global. That is to say, how do we facilitate travel of persons and the transport of goods as necessary, but do that in the context that enhances the security of persons and goods. And a number of initiatives will come out of that, as well as a discussion of nonproliferation and the importance we attach to strengthening the nonproliferation regime globally.

The evening discussion among leaders will be the traditional so-called "regional issues" discussion, where leaders are free, in the context of private sessions, to raise issues that are on their minds and have a general discussion, perhaps, of the day's events as well.

I won't get into the outline for the briefing for Thursday – happy to do that at another occasion.

Q Given that the Central Bank generally describes the affect of rising energy prices on Canada's economy as neutral and that oil prices are starting to come off a bit over the last few days, could you provide a little more detail – the Prime Minister's concern over rising oil prices? And maybe even talk about any sort of targets that he has in mind for a more appropriate crude price?

SENIOR CANADIAN OFFICIAL: I don't think that the Prime Minister has in mind targeting a more appropriate crude price. I think what the Prime Minister is reflecting, as are other leaders, concern about the oil pricing be not something that gets out of control or unmanaged. There have been actions at the OPEC level, which are seen by some analysts to be inadequate in terms of enhanced supply. It is entirely appropriate that leaders will want to raise any issues that concern the performance of the global economy, and this is one of the issues on the horizon, which the Prime Minister has identified – as have others, I should add – for discussion tomorrow.

Q Could I just hear what happened with the Blair bilat – what was talked about, what came from it?

SENIOR CANADIAN OFFICIAL: Sure, I can answer that. It was a very friendly meeting with Prime Minister Blair. They had met and chatted briefly around the margins of the events at Normandy just last weekend. The two Prime Ministers took stock of today's Security Council resolution on Iraq, both viewing it as a milestone. It does point the way forward. They each expressed the hope that it would provide a basis for more stability, better security for the Iraqi people. And both shared, I think, a common view that it is, as of June 30th, time to look at enhanced reconstruction efforts – larger contributors to that effort –

[Recording error.]

Q Can you explain what Canada's position is on what percentage of Iraq's debt should be forgiven, and where this stands in relationship to the United States and the other countries of the G8?

SENIOR CANADIAN OFFICIAL: Let me start – the whole issue of Iraq debt forms part of the discussions for leaders in terms of their call, which would be in response to the broader Middle East initiative, but also, more specifically, the U.N. resolution for an enhanced focus on the next phase of the reconstruction in Iraq.

Canada, as you know, has already announced - the Prime Minister did this some months ago – that we would seek to forgive the vast amount of our existing Iraqi debt, which is some $750 million. That is being discussed within the context of the Paris Club, and I'm sure will be raised tomorrow as well.

The IMF study, the analysis of Iraq's situation has recently been tabled and will form the basis of a discussion about the need for debt relief. But there is some debate as to what level that debt relief should take, and I believe that leaders will want to have at least a preliminary discussion of that, recognizing that the issue will more properly be dealt with in the context of the Paris Club and by ministers of finance.

But Canada's position has been very clear and very generous – that we believe that it would be important to move on the vast majority.

Q What sort of range do you think that IMF document talked about – the range of support from whatever percentage to what percentage?

SENIOR CANADIAN OFFICIAL: Well, the IMF document spoke of the need for more than what has been viewed as substantial, which is 66 percent or 67 percent. The debate will be, of course, how much more.

Q A domestic issue – just wondering what the Prime Minister's reaction is – or what your reaction is on his behalf – to Senator Ann Cools' announcement that she's leaving the liberals and joining the conservatives in the Senate?

SENIOR CANADIAN OFFICIAL: Well, we just heard word shortly ago, coming out of the bilateral with Prime Minister Blair, so it's relatively fresh news from our perspective.

I guess we would say that Senator Cools is someone who's been known for many years as having no hesitation to express her views; so she's changed parties. That's her right and that is as it would be.

Our focus is going to be to continue to contest in what I think is starting to shape up as a very substantial battle on the basis of values between ourselves and the conservatives and Stephen Harper. Senator Cools has decided that she feels more comfortable sitting in a caucus where they will pursue an agenda that puts increased military spending – substantially increased military spending – ahead of healthcare; where a woman's right to choose and other charter rights would be subject to the will of the House of Commons. That's her choice. Others will have to make a choice as well – it's called Election Day – and we are going to put our case very strongly to the Canadian public and fight for their support.

Q I was just wondering if you could discuss how Canada feels that the Bush administration is hoping that tomorrow's luncheon discussion will lend support for its greater Middle East initiative. Is Canada concerned about the fact of Middle East countries who have turned down invitations to come, and is Canada seeking any changes in the plan that the Bush administration has put forward?

SENIOR CANADIAN OFFICIAL: I think I can respond generally. In effect, what is taking shape, with some false starts earlier in the year, is a set of initiatives on the broader Middle East and North Africa that encompass both political and economic reform. It's an agenda that many countries in the region itself are taking up, as we've seen most recently at the Arab League Summit. So it's more in the nature not so much of a Bush plan as it is a partnership between the objectives I think many of us share in the G8 for more prosperity, more growth, more inclusiveness on the one hand, and the desire of many states in the region themselves for the same.

So Canada is very supportive, in fact, of the direction that this agenda is taking in the lead-up to the Summit. I think the Prime Minister is looking forward to a constructive interchange with counterparts among the invited guests. At any summit, one can't have a truly universal representation, in any event, but we've very pleased, in fact, with the evolution of what's now, I guess, being named by you folks as the broader Middle East and North Africa initiative.

I should add, however, that Canada continues to believe that we in the G8 should continue to give appropriate attention to the Israel-Palestine conflict. We're supportive of Prime Minister Sharon's plan for withdrawal from Gaza. It does hold the prospect of breaking the logjam. All of the key issues thereafter, however, are for the parties themselves to negotiate.

So we do see both the broader Middle East initiative and Israel-Palestine as topics for constructive discussion tomorrow. The leaders of the G8 will be talking amongst themselves, as my colleague said, in the morning session before going to the joint luncheon.

Q – I was told something about 50,000 on five years. What will Canada's contribution be on this?

SENIOR CANADIAN OFFICIAL: I can answer, if you want, first, and then my colleague might want to add a few words.

Originally, the proposal was a recommendation by Mr. Brahimi. Now he is the special envoy of Kofi Annan in Iraq. Before that, he wrote a report on conflicts on the African continent. In that report, he had suggested to train between 50,000 and 100,000 soldiers who would be trained to carry out the task of peacekeeping.

What seems to be coming together for the leaders' discussion is, in fact, to take up that recommendation and to see if we can collectively provide support under U.N. auspices through existing centers for training in Africa to build that capacity.

The numbers being talked about are still in that range. It's not quite, as your question suggests, that each of the G8 will undertake a certain number of soldiers, but rather, for example, to provide a more significant investment in the ability – to take one example – of the Kofi Annan peacekeeping center, under ECOWAS in Ghana, to train more soldiers and to ramp that up in the various centers of the region so as to build that capacity.

Thank you very much.

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