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Economists: AIDS to Be a Leading Issue at G-8

Economists Predict Funding for AIDS to Be a Leading Issue at G-8

(Development issues to be high on meeting's agenda, they say)

By Kathryn McConnell Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- President Bush will challenge the heads of the other major industrialized countries meeting June 1-3 in Evian, France, to pledge more of their budgets to the fight against HIV/AIDS, according to a panel of economists.

Development issues -- including fighting communicable diseases and supporting reconstruction of Iraq -- will be high on the agenda of the Group of Eight (G-8), predicted the economists in a May 29 briefing in Washington. The G-8 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

"This summit may mark a switch [in the G-8 agenda] to development issues," said Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development (CGD).

At the top of the agenda will be achieving global security against terrorists, predicted Steven Radelet, CGD senior fellow. Re-energizing global economic growth also will be discussed, he said.

The administration took a "huge step forward" when President Bush signed May 27 the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003, directing $15,000 million over the next five years to fight AIDS, Radelet said.

With that bill signed before the G-8 meeting, Bush will have more leverage to press his counterparts to increase their contributions to fighting AIDS, he said.

Agriculture issues -- particularly subsidies and to a lesser extent the EU's ban of foods derived from biotechnology -- will also rank high on the meeting's agenda, predicted Birdsall.

If the United States and the European Union (EU) make some progress on agricultural subsidies at Evian, trade ministers meeting in September in Mexico will have more of a chance of success advancing World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, she said.

Agreement by the United States and the EU on agriculture "is what matters most to developing countries," said Birdsall.

The United States proposed in 2002 a gradual reduction and eventual elimination of agricultural supports worldwide.

The EU's current negotiated subsidy limit is more than three times the U.S. limit, noted William Cline, another CGD senior fellow.

With EU expansion making more countries eligible for agricultural supports, there will be more economic pressures on the EU in coming weeks to reconsider its WTO position on subsidies, Cline suggested.

Radelet said he expected the G-8 leaders to issue statements agreeing to support additional debt relief for some heavily indebted poor countries and emphasizing the importance of good corporate governance.

The leaders are also expected to issue a statement seeking more transparency in multinational corporation payments to governments for the use of natural resources.

Birdsall said the meeting will likely add more pressure on Japan to restructure its economy.

The G-8 is also expected to issue a statement in support of the peer review mechanism adopted by the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) to monitor national reform programs.


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