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The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

Trade, tax, transparency: the UK G8 agenda

Next year Britain chairs the G8, the group of the world’s most developed Western economies. So what you might ask?

Some people ask: does the G8 still matter, when we have a G20, embracing also the emerging powers, including Brazil, India and China?

The UK’s answer is “Yes”. The G8 is a group of like-minded nations who share a belief in free enterprise as the best route to growth. And as the countries make up half of the world’s GDP, what we do can help solve vital global issues, stimulate economies and encourage prosperity all over the world.

The G8 Summit next year will be held in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, a tribute to the success in promoting security and prosperity in that long-troubled part of the UK.
It will be focused on three priorities. Advancing trade, ensuring tax compliance and promoting greater transparency.

There is no greater stimulus for growth in the world economy than trade. As the G8, we have a collective responsibility to drive forward trade liberalisation.  The UK and Sweden are leading EU efforts to finalise a free trade agreement with Canada and to launch negotiations with Japan and America over the next year. We want G8 leaders to agree how we will accelerate progress across our ambitious trade agenda. An EU/US deal could provide an enormous boost to jobs and growth adding over £50 billion to the EU economy alone.

People rightly get angry when they work hard and pay their taxes, but see others not paying their fair share. So this G8 will seek to maintain the momentum on strengthening of international tax standards. We will look to go further on tax havens by improving tax information exchange. And we will work with developing countries to help them improve their ability to collect the tax that is due to them.

The UK is meeting our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our gross national income on aid from 2013 – and we will be holding other countries to account for their promises too. We will also be leading the way in the battle against hunger with a special event on food and nutrition a few days before the main meeting, to follow up on this year’s Olympic Hunger Summit.

The UK wants to use this G8 to support what David Cameron calls the “golden thread” of conditions that enable open economies and open societies to drive prosperity and growth for all. These include the rule of law, the absence of conflict and corruption, and the presence of property rights and strong institutions.

Transparency and accountability are vital for this. Take the issue of mineral wealth. We need to make sure that, for developing countries, this is a blessing not a curse. So the UK is leading efforts in the EU to require oil, gas and mining companies to publish key financial information for each country and project they work on. And I want 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.

These defining advances in trade, tax and transparency could lay the foundations of long-term growth and prosperity for generations to come.

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