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Finance reforms 'must help poor'

Delegates at the Francophonie summit in Quebec City, Canada (19 October 2008)
The Francophonie unanimously backed a call for reform of global capitalism

Leaders of French-speaking nations have said the needs of the poorest countries must be considered in any long-term solution to the financial crisis.

Speaking at the Francophonie summit in Quebec City, Canadian PM Stephen Harper said it was essential for developing nations to have access to free markets.

His French counterpart, Francois Fillon, also agreed that "nobody wants to put more protectionism in place".

On Saturday, the US agreed to host a summit to discuss economic reforms.

The meeting, the first of a series, is to be held sometime after November's presidential election and will include developed and developing countries.

However, it is not clear what the agenda will be and already differences are emerging.

US President George W Bush, who made the proposal after meeting the French leader, Nicolas Sarkozy, and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said any plan must preserve the foundations of democratic capitalism, and not undermine the free market.

Mr Sarkozy meanwhile said it was an opportunity to build a new global capitalism and leave behind the "hateful practices" of the past.

'Slamming doors'

With representatives from Africa, the Caribbean, the South Pacific and south-east Asia, as well as two of the Group of Eight (G8) richest nations, the Francophonie summit was billed as the first North-South meeting since the financial and market turmoil erupted.

At the end of the meeting, delegates for the 55 member states unanimously backed a call by President Sarkozy for reform of the capitalist system and for more discussions to tackle the global economic crisis.

If we start slamming our doors on anybody, on each other or on the developing countries, we will all pay a very big price for that
Stephen Harper
Canadian Prime Minister

But they also warned that no country was safe from the turmoil and that any response should not neglect the needs of the world's poorest nations.

The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, said that while reform was needed it was important to remember that the banking crisis had not been created in the developing world and that trade with it should not suffer as a result.

"I think it is essential for all the countries of the world, but particularly developing countries to have access to markets and have access to opportunity," he said.

"If we start slamming our doors on anybody, on each other or on the developing countries, we will all pay a very big price for that."

French PM Francois Fillon agreed that "nobody wants extra rules".

"Nobody wants protectionism. What we want is simply a regulation of the financial system that is coherent and consistent in all parts of the globe," he added.

The summit's final declaration also promised to draw up a united Francophone position on the environment in time for an international climate change conference in Poland in December.

Many of the delegates pledged to help cut global greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, but developing countries often found themselves clashing with their hosts Canada, which favoured less binding targets.


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