G8 spies economic danger signs as summit begins

9th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The build-up to the summit in L'Aquila was overshadowed at the last minute by turmoil in China, which prompted President Hu Jintao to hurry back to Beijing.

L’Aquila -- Leaders of the world's industrialised powers gathered for their annual summit on Wednesday, fearful that the global economy is still in danger and backing away from pledges on global warming.

The build-up to the summit in L'Aquila, which was devastated by an earthquake less than 100 days ago, was overshadowed at the last minute by turmoil in China, which prompted President Hu Jintao to hurry back to Beijing.

As around two dozen heads of state and government arrived in a military barracks for the summit, it emerged that a draft summit declaration on climate change made no mention of a previous pledge to halve greenhouse gasses emissions by 2050.

The build-up has also been marred by violent protests. Italian police made around 40 arrests in Rome on the eve of the meeting, when demonstrators hurled bottles and set fire to tyres on the streets of Rome.

The Group of Eight summit brought together leaders from the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Italy. But in a sign of the shifting balance of power, much of the discussion will be expanded to include emerging powers India, China, Brazil and South Africa.

While the focus is largely on the global economy, leaders will thrash out issues such as climate change, world trade and food security as well as the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes.

It is the first time that so many of the world's most powerful leaders have gathered together since a landmark G20 summit in April when one trillion dollars was committed to the International Monetary Fund and other global bodies to help struggling economies.

According to a diplomat who has seen a draft of a joint declaration to be delivered at the summit's end, leaders may have detected some positive signs but do not believe the global economy is out of the woods yet.

"The situation remains uncertain and there remains risk for economic and financial stability. We note signs of stabilization in our economies," the diplomat said, quoting the communiqué.

"We will make individually and collectively the necessary steps to bring the global economy onto a path of strong, stabile and sustainable growth," it added.

A senior White House official said it was important the G8 does not opt for a quick-fix.

"The G8 shares a perspective that it's important that we come out of this with a balanced and sustained growth, that we take the necessary actions to do so, and that we return to fiscal sustainability over the mid-term," said Mike Froman, deputy national security advisor for international economic affairs.

John Kirton, director the University of Toronto's G8 Research Group, said the leaders would "try to nurture the economic 'green shoots' now appearing in G8 economies into a reliable recovery, without forgetting the rising ranks of the unemployed or letting loose unsustainable fiscal deficits."

Efforts to combat global warming will also feature prominently on Wednesday's agenda but a European Union official said the G8 had dropped a pledge to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

"There is indeed a very strong commitment to identify the global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050, but there is no 50 percent" mentioned in a draft declaration, the official said, on condition of anonymity.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had planned to raise the violence in China's Xinjiang region in talks with Hu on the summit sidelines, but he dramatically cut short his trip overnight and went home to work on the crisis.

Chinese officials say 156 people died in weekend riots in the regional capital Urumqi where a massive security clampdown has been imposed.

Russia has been arguing that issues such as Xinjiang and Iran's political crisis are "internal matters" but US President Barack Obama and the leaders of France and Britain want the G8 summit to add to the pressure on Tehran.

Obama is one of a number of leaders due to be taken on a tour by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of the villages at the epicentre of the April 6 quake which claimed 299 lives.

"Obviously our hearts were broken by the death and destruction that took place after the earthquake," said Obama after meeting Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in Rome.

Berlusconi is hoping the event will deflect attention away from lurid headlines about his private life, which he dismissed Tuesday as "all lies".

Instead, the premier hoped the summit would see the launch of an initiative to raise up to 15 billion dollars to boost food security in poor countries.

Around 15,000 police have been deployed to prevent a repeat of the violence which marred the last time Italy hosted a G8 summit in 2001 when a protestor was fatally shot by police in Genoa.

Mathieu Gorse/AFP/Expatica

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