G-8 Summit Focuses on Economy, Security, Developme
G-8 Summit Focuses on Economy, Security, Development
(Leaders expected to emphasize shared values over divisions)
By Andrzej Zwaniecki and Wendy S. Ross Washington File Staff Correspondents
Evian, France -- Leaders of industrial powers, other countries and multilateral institutions have gathered in France to tackle questions of global security, sluggish world growth and development in poor nations while trying to overcome divisions stemming from the war in Iraq.
The June 1-3 summit of the Group of Eight (G-8) in Evian, France, is not expected to bring a major break-through on any of those issues, according to private analysts. But leaders of the world's most industrialized countries -- Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States -- and Russia are under pressure to take bolder actions, first of all to stimulate the global economy and accelerate anemic economic growth.
During a May meeting of G-8 finance ministers in France, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said that the United States had done its part by lowering interest rates, cutting taxes twice in two years and improving corporate governance, and called on other G-8 countries to take decisive steps -- each country in its own way -- to "spur growth, create jobs and contribute to global prosperity."
Economists and market analysts, however, say moving ahead with essential structural reforms in Japan, Germany, and the overall European Union (EU) and overcoming trade frictions between the United States and the European Union may prove to be difficult. World Trade Organization (WTO) trade liberalization talks have stalled, primarily over differences on reform of agricultural subsidy systems. The United States also has filed a case in the WTO against an EU moratorium on approvals of genetically modified agricultural products for planting or import.
World business leaders, concerned that these and other obstacles may be reinforced by geopolitical divisions, called in advance of the summit on heads of state to put political differences behind them and make a strong commitment to the success of the WTO multilateral trade round, according to news reports.
And in the period leading up to the summit principal players have indeed tried to strike conciliatory notes.
President Bush offered to work together with European leaders on countering the threat of global terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in a speech he gave in Poland just a day before the summit. "This is a time for all of us to unite in the defense of liberty defense of liberty and to step up to the shared duties of free nations," he said.
"This is no time to stir up divisions in a great alliance," Bush said referring to tensions and acrimonies over the war in Iraq. Different views on how to deal with Iraq pitched the United States and its supporters both in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the U.N. Security Council against other powerful members of both organizations, primarily Germany and France.
Following his June 1 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, Bush said he and Putin pledged to build a new strategic partnership between the United States and Russia aimed at improving international security. Russia also had strongly opposed the Iraq war.
Bush believes "very strongly that the United States and its allies -- both traditional allies and new allies -- share a set of values from which we can proceed to make the world safer and better," a senior U.S. official said en route from St. Petersburg to Evian.
The president is coming to the summit with a number of proposals, another U.S. official said. Briefing reporters en route to Evian, the official said the United States has a "very robust agenda to make the world better", which includes spurring global economic growth, fighting terror, stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and advancing development issues.
"We want to do it together with our G-8 partners and others," the official said.
French President Jacques Chirac, the host of the 2003 summit, exchanged a firm handshake with Bush when he welcomed him June 1 in Evian. A spokeswoman for the French president said the two leaders would have a half-hour private meeting. If the leaders touch on the war in Iraq, she said, it would to "look to the future" rather than to "go back over the past."
Earlier, Chirac said that despite differences, "we in the G-8 all share the same set of economic values."
"I am convinced Evian can convey a message of confidence in world economic growth," he said in an interview with the Financial Times.
While the global economy and international security are expected to be high on the summit agenda, the first day of the Evian summit was to be devoted to a discussion of problems facing the developing world.
Bush was expected to call on the other G-8 countries to match his HIV/AIDS initiative. Congress recently approved the measure, which calls for spending $15,000 million over the next five years to fight the epidemic in Africa and the Caribbean. Before the summit Chirac called the Bush initiative a "very positive step" that "obliges us in Europe to follow suit."
Chirac has invited leaders from more than a dozen emerging and developing countries for an "enlarged dialogue" at the summit. They include Egypt's President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, Morocco's King Mohammed, Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade, Mexico's President Vincente Fox Quesada, Brazil's President Luiz Inachio Lulu da Silva, China's President Hu Jintao, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad, and India's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
In addition, attending the summit are United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Horst Koehler, World Trade Organization Director Supachai Panitchpakdi, and President of the Swiss Confederation Pascal Couchepin. Switzerland is close to the summit site, and has helped France in preparing to welcome the world leaders and thousands of journalists covering the event.
However, extended participation does not assure the success of a summit. The G-8 and G-7 summits tend to produce best and most concrete results when participation is limited to major players, said a report issued May 31 by the University of Toronto G-8 Research Group.
The leaders arrived in Evian, a picturesque town on Lake Geneva, by boat and helicopter.
Bush was scheduled to have a one-on-one meeting June 1 with China's President Hu Jintao. Bush is scheduled to depart Evian June 2, before the summit's June 3 conclusion, to travel to the Middle East to help push forward the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
The summit is accompanied by strong security measures. Some 15,000 French and 10,000 Swiss security forces, supported by military aircraft, are patrolling the lakefront resort and the surrounding mountainous area. Despite these steps thousands of anti-globalization protesters clashed with police outside the heavily guarded summit area, blocking highways and bridges and setting fire to barricades, according to news reports. Police responded by firing volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets.