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Food Aid & Development Top Priority For G8 Summit

Food Aid, Development Issues Figure Prominently in G8 Summit

Washington -- The Group of Eight major economies will hold critical meetings with the leaders of seven African nations on the opening day of their three-day annual summit in Japan to address food aid and economic development assistance.

"We expect that these sessions will look at global issues, as well as [economic] development issues," said Dan Price, U.S. deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs. The summit begins July 7 with a session that includes G8 leaders and the leaders of Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Senegal.

The African leaders are meeting with the G8 to review pledges made at the 2005 summit in Scotland. There they pledged to double aid to Africa by 2010, President Bush said July 2 while explaining his hopes for the U.S. agenda at the annual economic summit.

"America is on track to meet our commitments," Bush said while taking reporters' questions at the White House. "And in Japan, I'll urge other leaders to fulfill their commitments as well."

Bush has made accountability a major theme for this year's G8 meetings, arguing that "we need people who not only make promises, but write checks, for the sake of human rights and human dignity, and for the sake of peace." The G8 includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

G8 leaders are expected to address an array of political, security and economic issues when they meet for three days. "We expect that they will discuss a broad range of issues, including development, Africa, food security, trade and investment policy, energy security, climate change and issues relating to the global economy, including oil prices," Price said.

And the global leaders are expected to specifically address regional security issues, counterterrorism and nonproliferation. Bush will hold one-on-one meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Chinese President Hu Jintao and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, among others.

One of those key regional security issues will be talks about North Korea and efforts to remove the threat of nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula. North Korean leaders recently released a detailed declaration to the members of the Six-Party Talks -- which includes North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States. In return for cooperation and ending a clandestine weapons development program, North Korea will receive political and economic incentives.

Bush emphasized his concern about carrying through on G8 funding pledges, especially for Africa. "We must also fulfill our commitments in the battle against HIV/AIDS and malaria. It's important that over the next five years that we support antiretroviral treatment for approximately 2.5 million people, that we prevent 12 million new AIDS infections, and that we care for 12 million people also affected by HIV/AIDS, including 5 million orphans and vulnerable children," he said.

G8 leaders will devote July 8 largely to their specific agenda, Price said, which will be discussed in four sessions without other world leaders present. But on the final day, G8 leaders begin a series of outreach meetings with leaders from Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa, who are known as the G5 or Outreach 5, Price said. "These are the five outreach countries involved in the Heiligendamm process that was launched by Germany last year," he said.

The Heiligendamm process features discussions between the five significant emerging global economies and G8 leaders, and has become a regularly scheduled portion of the annual G8 summits. Bush acknowledged that often many of the more complex issues cannot be discussed without also including Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.

Price said Australia, Indonesia and South Korea will be invited to join in the talks with the G8 and G5 leaders. The focus, he noted, will be on the current status of the world economy, food security and the cost of oil.

Food Security Issues

Food security is expected to dominate much of the meetings. Members of the U.S. Congress encouraged Bush to raise the issue of soaring food prices and oil prices with other leaders. Specifically, members of Congress are concerned that global oil speculation is distorting market activities with the potential for severe consequences. One of those is to exacerbate the global food crisis.

"At Toyako I'll also ask leaders of the G8 to make other important strategic moves to alleviate hunger, such as increasing the shipments of food, fertilizers and seeds to countries in need," Bush said. He added that he will continue promoting the importance of advanced farming technologies, including biotechnology, to help nations grow food so they don't have to come to other nations for assistance.

Bush said that also means talking about export restrictions, tariffs and subsidies that distort trade and global markets. "We're working hard to get this done by the end of the year, and it will be a good opportunity in Japan to discuss what we need to do together to open up market access and to reduce agricultural subsidies," he said.

Trade talks are expected to be difficult as nations try to resolve differences in the Doha round of World Trade Organization talks. The WTO has scheduled a ministerial trade summit later in July to attempt to find ways to resolve differences, which involve meeting domestic demands and international demands that are often at odds with each other.

Price said the United States believes it is important to address immediate food aid needs, including purchasing food aid locally and providing essential nonfood assistance such as seeds and fertilizers.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick called on Bush and other G8 leaders to make new food aid commitments to avert starvation and instability in dozens of countries. "What we are witnessing is not a natural disaster, a silent tsunami or a perfect storm. It is a man-made catastrophe, and as such must be fixed by people," Zoellick said in a letter he sent to world leaders July 1, according to the New York Times.

G8 Summits Began As A Dinner

Originally, the G8 began as a dinner for six nations, when the French and German presidents invited leaders from the United States, Britain, Italy and Japan to the Chateau Rambouillet on the outskirts of Paris in 1975 to informally discuss world economic problems. The meeting was prompted by the economic aftermath of the 1973 oil embargo and the collapse of the system of fixed exchange rates, according to the New York Times.

Canada became a member of the group in the following year and Russia became a member in 1998. The European Union also was invited to meet with the group in the ensuing years. Since then, and depending on world crises at the time, the G8 has included other nations in the talks, which are still technically informal gatherings, though they now feature more detailed agendas.

G8 nations meet in Japan July 7-9

ENDS

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