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Thursday, July 2, 2009

G8 still relevant but must lead, envoy says


Staff writer

Despite doubts cast on its influence over the global economy, the Group of Eight will remain a key framework to guide the world out of the economic downturn, one of Japan's top coordinators for the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, said Wednesday.

News photo
Making the case: Yoichi Suzuki, director general of the Foreign Ministry's Economic Affairs Bureau, gestures during an interview Wednesday. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

In fact, the meeting next week in central Italy must showcase the G8 members' capabilities.

"The G8 needs to show its leadership and demonstrate a vision to the rest of the world," Yoichi Suzuki, director general of the Foreign Ministry's Economic Affairs Bureau, told The Japan Times on Wednesday.

"Unlike developing countries, the G8 nations have a relatively larger capacity to consider the global situation and not just their domestic economies," he said.

The three topics to dominate discussions at the L'Aquila summit will be the world economy, climate change and aid to Africa, Suzuki revealed. After reaching consensus on the first day of the summit, July 8, the focus will turn the next day to the details at an outreach session that will include growing powers, particularly China and India, Suzuki said.

On the final day, July 10, food security and poverty in Africa will take center stage.

"Regarding the economy, we will explain that Japan is doing what it needs to do," Suzuki said, referring to a series of stimulus-inducing extra budgets passed by the Diet. While some nations have shied from overspending, an ample budget is the necessary foundation for an economic upturn, he said.

Japan will also ask its G8 colleagues to support the recovery of developing countries. "Developed nations must work not only toward their own recovery, but the recovery of developing countries as well," Suzuki said, pointing out Tokyo's efforts to assist cash-strapped countries includes an agreement in February to lend $100 billion to the International Monetary Fund.

"It is important that the G8 sends out a positive message, which gives the developing countries a sense of security. That ultimately leads to improvement of the global economy," he added.

Tokyo is also eager to lead discussions on climate change at L'Aquila, where the G8 members are expected to agree on an 80 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Last month, Prime Minister Taro Aso revealed Japan's goal to reduce emissions by 15 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, a target Tokyo has called bolder than those put forward by European countries and the U.S.

Japan endorses the 80 percent reduction goal, Suzuki said, but added that all major emitters must pledge to reduce emissions.

"The key factor will be whether or not China makes a commitment" to cut emissions, he said, since Beijing has urged developed countries to make substantial cuts first.

"But we are not at the point to be arguing who goes first," he added.

On African development, Suzuki said the G8 is preparing to evaluate how well the members have kept their pledges to aid the continent. The results are expected to be included in the final statement made in L'Aquila.

While member countries promised to increase annual global economic aid by $50 billion from the 2005 level by 2010, some, including host country Italy, are believed to be slow in delivering promised assistance to Africa.

But Suzuki said the intention of the evaluation is not to point fingers.

"This is all about accountability," he said, explaining that G8 countries must take responsibility for providing better welfare, food support and education to poverty-stricken countries in Africa.

Aso to leave Monday

Kyodo News

Prime Minister Taro Aso will leave for Italy on Monday to attend the three-day Group of Eight summit starting July 8 and hold talks with some of his fellow G8 leaders on the sidelines, the government's top spokesman said Wednesday.

At the summit, "Japan is hoping to make the biggest contributions among the G8 members," Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said.

The leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and Russia are expected to take up the financial crisis, climate change and other issues troubling the entire globe, according to Kawamura.

On the sidelines of the summit in the city of L'Aquila in central Italy, Aso is likely to meet separately with some of his G8 counterparts.

A meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is almost certain to be held, as he and Aso agreed to get together at the event when they met earlier this year. Their talks will focus on finding a breakthrough in the decades-old territorial dispute over the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido.

Aso is expected to return July 11 or 12, but his return itinerary has yet to be fixed, Kawamura said.



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