Trade Talks, Climate Change Dominate G-8

Obama at G8 meeting i i

President Obama greets leaders at the start of the G-8 talks in L'Aquila, Italy. The talks brought the world's leading industrial nations together with fast-growing powers such as India, China and Brazil for talks on trade and global warming. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Obama at G8 meeting

President Obama greets leaders at the start of the G-8 talks in L'Aquila, Italy. The talks brought the world's leading industrial nations together with fast-growing powers such as India, China and Brazil for talks on trade and global warming.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Leaders of the world's eight major industrialized nations met Thursday with some of their fastest-growing trade partners in an effort to eliminate trade barriers that could stall the faltering world economy. They agreed to complete a key round of world trade talks next year.

Fresh from Wednesday's landmark agreement to set a target for limiting global warming, the so-called G-8 nations turned to world trade issues.

But as the summit in L'Aquila, Italy, shifted to the trade agenda, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the G-8 nations did not go far enough in establishing targets for limiting climate change.

In a sharp rebuke, the U.N. chief said, "The policies that they have stated so far are not enough, not sufficient enough."

Ban said the world's richest countries need to do more to reduce climate change and provide financing to developing countries to alter their heavily polluting practices. "This is politically and morally imperative and a historic responsibility ... for the future of humanity, even for the future of the planet Earth."

Despite Wednesday's G-8 pledge to limit global warming to no more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), fast-developing countries such as China and India have refused to agree to big cuts in their emissions of greenhouse gases. They say the world's richest countries need to take concrete steps to cut their own emissions first.

Still Time To Reach Agreement

President Obama, who was chairman of Thursday's session, said there is still time to reach an agreement with the developing nations before talks begin on a new U.N. climate change treaty in Copenhagen in December.

Meanwhile, the main effort of the summit Thursday was seeking to avert trade wars that could hamper economies struggling to emerge from the global recession.

"We reaffirm our commitment to maintain and promote open markets and reject all protectionist measures in trade and investment," according to a draft of the joint statement signed by 17 nations, including the Group of Eight industrialized countries and five key emerging market economies.

The G-8 consists of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia — nations that have long dominated world trade.

Urging Countries To Avoid Protectionism

As the world financial crisis deepens, some leaders of those countries fear that nations will try to protect their domestic industries by raising barriers to foreign goods. For example, Russia, whose domestic auto industry is failing, tries to block the import of cheaper foreign cars by slapping them with heavy tariffs.

Economists say that kind of protectionist action hobbled world trade in the 1930s and helped deepen the Great Depression.

The G-8 leaders invited leaders from the major developing countries to their meeting in Italy in an effort to speed action on a world trade deal designed to cut tariffs and end government subsidies that give domestic industries an unfair trade advantage. The talks included leaders from Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.

Those leaders have been clamoring for a bigger role in international decision-making. Their rapid growth and economic power make them major factors in many global problems, including trade, climate change and development.

Other nations involved in the talks are Egypt, South Korea and Australia.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.