The G8 — why it matters globally

LONDON EYE - Stephen Lillie (The Philippine Star) - January 10, 2013 - 12:00am

I have written before about the myriad international summits that are so hard to keep track of. In these days of the G20 you might question the relevance of the G8 in the world economic order. However, it will be a key focus of the UK’s diplomacy in 2013. Britain holds the G8 Presidency this year, and the Summit will take place in June at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland. For all who take an interest in peace processes, including in Mindanao, it’s an indication of how far the Northern Ireland peace process has come that we are now able to host the G8 summit there. But the relevance of the G8 to the Philippines goes further than this.

The G8 began in the 1970s as a forum for the biggest economies in the world. Its make-up said a lot about where economic power lay at that time: Western Europe, North America and Japan. The G20, with members such as Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Mexico, demonstrates the economic rebalancing that has taken place since then. But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, rumours of the demise of the G8 have been greatly exaggerated. It still represents around half of world GDP. The standards the G8 sets, the commitments it makes, and the steps it takes can help solve vital global issues and drive prosperity all over the world.

We are putting three issues at the heart of our G8 agenda: advancing trade, ensuring tax compliance and promoting greater transparency. This is an agenda which should resonate with the Philippine government. Prime Minister David Cameron speaks of a “golden thread” of issues that characterise open economies and societies: the rule of law, the absence of conflict and corruption, and the presence of property rights and strong institutions. This golden thread seems to me an essential guide along President Aquino’s “matuwid na daan” or “straight path”. We will be using our G8 Presidency to support these fundamental building blocks of global growth.

Much of our G8 agenda speaks for itself. There is no greater stimulus for growth in the world economy than trade, so tackling protectionism remains a top priority. On taxes, people rightly get angry when they work hard and pay their taxes, but then see others not paying their fair share. So we will be using this G8 to maintain the momentum generated by the G20 on information exchange and the strengthening of international tax standards. The transparency agenda will touch a number of issues, including international development spending, where we will press for greater transparency in aid flows, and mineral wealth. On this, David Cameron has said that he wants this G8 to drive greater transparency all around the globe so that revenues from oil, gas and mining can help developing countries to forge a path to sustainable growth, instead of fuelling conflict and corruption.

A G8 Summit may lack some of the excitement and visual appeal of the Olympics and Paralympics — although Lough Erne is a stunning countryside setting. (Lough is an Irish word meaning a lake, and is pronounced in a similar way to the Scottish word Loch, as in Loch Ness.) But what happens there has the potential to touch the lives of billions around the world. Britain is determined that our G8 Presidency turns good intentions into real actions which advance growth and prosperity across the world, including here in South East Asia. I will tell you more about our agenda in future columns.

(Stephen Lillie is British Ambassador to the Philippines.)

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