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Last Updated: Monday, 4 July, 2005, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
Could G8 plan be empty rhetoric?
By David Loyn
BBC News

Tony Blair is much closer to agreement on a plan for Africa at Gleneagles than he is on climate change.

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Africa could again end up sidelined after this weeks events

His ambitions for Africa are underpinned by the serious, intellectual approach of the Commission for Africa, which engaged the energy of Bob Geldof and an invited group of African leaders, bankers and others during the last year.

The challenges are enormous.

If nothing changes, it would take Africa 150 years to reach the poverty reduction targets agreed in the optimism of the UN Millennium summit five years ago.

The relationship between the British government with rock stars and lobbyists in the run-up to the G8 meeting has been unique.

Ministers have not only urged people to go out on the streets and protest, but have joined the rallies.

And in one of the most successful pieces of public relations in modern times, the lobbyists around Geldof and Bono have succeeded in fixing a kind of brand recognition for the solutions - Debt, Aid, and Trade.

Bono's pressure group is even called DATA (the last "A" for Africa).

Debt relief

So what will the G8 achieve? On debt and aid, the key agreements have already been secured.

The poorest 18 countries will have their debts completely written off by the IMF and World Bank as well as individual countries, while the debt relief scheme is being extended more widely.

Africa's most populous country Nigeria, which had not qualified before, has convinced lenders in the last few days that it has done enough to combat corruption to earn the relief of some of its bad debts.

Securing an agreement on fairer trade terms for Africa will be much harder

On aid, there was announcement by President Bush last week that he will double aid to Africa by 2010.

This follows similar recent pledges by Italy and Germany and should secure the extra $25bn (£14.2bn) a year for Africa sought by the Africa Commission. (Britain and France had already agreed to pay their share).

Trade reform

The final communiqué from Gleneagles will make robust commitments on aid for the first time.

Securing an agreement on fairer trade terms for Africa will be much harder.

The aim is to cut world farm subsidies, so that African farmers could trade on fair terms, while lowering tariffs, and improving capacity in Africa to compete.

The European Union has gone some way to reforming its system, cutting some subsidies and transferring others so that farmers are rewarded for preserving the environment rather than production.

But Britain is pushing for far deeper cuts.

Slugging match

International Development Secretary Hilary Benn said in a recent speech: "Europe cannot lead the world on development when its trade and agriculture policies undermine developing countries' ability to trade their way out of poverty."

This argument has hardly begun in America and Japan, which both pay large subsidies to farmers, backed up by powerful lobbies.

But there is a danger that at Gleneagles they may be on the sidelines, while Britain and France engage in a domestic slugging match over European subsidies.

The likely outcome in the final communiqué is a statement rich in rhetoric but low on detail.

This will make it easier for the developed world to avoid concessions in the next round of negotiations of the World Trade Organisation in Hong Kong in December, although this is billed as the "round for the developing world".




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