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EUR: Leading economies agree to battle protectionism, warming

Fri Jul 10 03:46:00 EST 2009

by Dave Clark

L'AQUILA, Italy, July 9 AFP - The world's biggest economies have agreed to fight protectionism and limit global warming as the major emerging powers confront the Group of Eight rich nations at their Italian summit.

Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico and South Africa joined an expanded G8 on its second day on Thursday, determined that US president Barack Obama and his wealthy partners pay the lion's share of the bill for solving the economic crisis.

These six developing countries agreed with the big eight -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- that they would oppose protectionism and move quicker towards a global trade deal.

"We confirm our commitment to maintain and promote open markets and reject all protectionist measures," the expanded group, known at the summit as the G14, said in its post talks statement on Thursday, seen by AFP.

"We are committed to seek an ambitious and balanced conclusion to the Doha developmental round in 2010," it added, setting a deadline for the resolution of a long-delayed global trade agreement.

The emerging powers, long wary of shackling their growth potential through limiting their carbon emissions, also bowed to pressure from the industrialised world to agree a climate change target, but not without a fight.

According to a G8 diplomat, Indian premier Manmohan Singh told his Western counterparts: "The developed world should shoulder a historic responsibility for causing global warning."

As late as last week, China and India opposed ambitious reduction targets, arguing the rich world should lead the way in fighting climate change. But according to a copy of a summit communique seen by AFP, the Major Economies Forum -- the 16 countries that between them produce 80 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases -- has come to a deal on a target.

The G8 countries, despite the reticence of Russia, had earlier agreed developed nations should cut their emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

Now the emerging economies have accepted the principle of limiting the rise in the Earth's average temperature to two degrees celsius above its 18th-century level, before the industrial revolution.

"I'm very pleased that we got the two degree target, as it now stands with the resolution text," said Swedish prime minister Frederik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the rotating European Union presidency.

"I think this was an important achievement, I thought it was already a breakthrough with the G8 formulating this," he added, while regretting that the emerging powers had not signed up to the 80 per cent cut.

Brazil dismissed the G8's distant emissions reduction target as "not credible" without an earlier interim stage, echoing the position of Russia, which has also dismissed the goal.

"We can't be satisfied with a single long-term objective without losing all credibility," said Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figuereido Machado.

"We need strong and deep reduction goals for 2020."

The Doha round of trade liberalisation talks were launched in the Qatari capital in late 2001 but have foundered ever since, despite repeated attempts to infuse new life into the negotiations.

Progress has been hampered by disputes between developed and developing nations on measures to ease restrictions on trade in agricultural and industrial products.

Two officials in L'Aquila said plans were in the works for World Trade Organisation ministers to meet sometime before a summit of the Group of 20 economic powers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 24 and 25.

Outside the summit venue -- a police training barracks hurriedly transformed into an international conference centre -- wives of several of the G8 leaders toured the town of L'Aquila, devastated by the April 6 earthquake.

The women, including US First Lady Michelle Obama, saw the work to recover the mountain town's historic centre and were ushered away from a protest by local residents who feel not enough has been done to rehouse them.

The G8 summit was to continue with more talks with leaders of the emerging economies on Thursday, before coming to a conclusion on Friday.