Trade may make it to G-8 meeting's agenda
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published July 15, 2006
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - The Group of Eight leaders appear intent on going beyond their marquee agenda items of energy security, infectious diseases and education to push for a breakthrough on long-stalled talks aimed at reducing trade barriers to poor countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a clear signal Friday that he was looking for progress on trade when he answered an aspiring statesman's question about Russia's feelings about chairing this year's G-8 summit, which opens today.
Wealthy countries "must remove barriers for the inflow of goods of traditional production ... but also stop full-scale subsidizing of their exports on the state level," Putin said, referring to the import tariffs and agricultural supports that jack up global prices and prevent developing countries from getting a foothold in the global economy.
President Bush met with Putin ahead of the opening of the annual summit. Despite political strains, the two leaders shook hands and hugged. "Solid friendship," Bush said of Putin as they and their wives went to dinner in a villa on the grounds of the opulent 18th century Konstantin Palace. The two leaders will hold a news conference today.
Seeking Putin's cooperation on issues ranging from Iran and North Korea to terrorism and rising energy prices, Bush did not criticize Russia for what is widely perceived as backsliding on democracy and human rights.
In a meeting with social activists unhappy about the rise of authoritarianism, Bush called Putin "my friend" and said "our own government and our country took a while to evolve."
Putin is not the only leader calling for the World Trade Organization's 5-year-old trade liberalization talks to be accelerated in the run-up to the summit. The negotiations are aimed at boosting the global economy and lifting millions out of poverty worldwide by lowering commercial barriers across all sectors.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said this week that it would be "extremely important" to restart the talks at the summit.
The leaders of China, India, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico were to join the G-8 leaders for some of Monday's discussions. Blair has proposed that all five become members so the group can better tackle the problems of developing nations, according to a report Thursday in London's Guardian newspaper.
[Last modified July 15, 2006, 00:46:10]
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