G-8 Leaders Expected To Discuss Oil, Food Prices World leaders will meet Monday for the Group of Eight summit in Japan. Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development and an expert on the global economy, discusses the meeting.
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G-8 Leaders Expected To Discuss Oil, Food Prices

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G-8 Leaders Expected To Discuss Oil, Food Prices

G-8 Leaders Expected To Discuss Oil, Food Prices

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

World leaders will gather in Japan tomorrow for the 34th Annual G8 Summit. Up for discussion are topics ranging from rising oil prices to the global food crisis. Nancy Birdsall is president of the Center for Global Development and an expert on the global economy. She joins us. Welcome to the program.

Ms. NANCY BIRDSALL (President, Center for Global Development): Thank you very much.

HANSEN: What are some of the economic concerns at the top of the G8's agenda?

Ms. BIRDSALL: Well, I'd say the oil price problem is going to be number one. And food prices, which are in part an outcome of the rise in oil prices, will be number two.

HANSEN: Do you expect any proposals to solve those problems?

Ms. BIRDSALL: I think for the G8 countries, their tools are limited in the short run. There will be a lot of discussion of what to do about the food price issue, particularly for poor people in developing countries in the medium term over the next two, three, five years. But on the oil prices, the jawboning to increase supply amongst oil exporters hasn't worked very well. So perhaps there will be some discussion of reducing demands, but I fear not enough.

HANSEN: So might something come out then that might ease the soaring oil prices and the food prices as you mentioned?

Ms. BIRDSALL: I don't think so. Not in the very short run. One thing that could be done on the food prices is to encourage developing countries to don't do export restrictions, to encourage the rich countries to consider reducing their mandates on biofuels and the tariffs in the U.S. that are excluding biofuels from Brazil and elsewhere. Because the shift of cropland into biofuels is at the margin reducing food supply, and that's keeping food prices high.

HANSEN: That's tough, though, because that's another source when we're talking about oil prices.

Ms. BIRDSALL: Exactly. So you see that there is a trade-off between short run and long run.

HANSEN: Absolutely. The environment is also a concern. And there's a new G8 study that says the United States has done the least to address global warming among countries with the biggest economies. Is global warming going to be on the backburner at the summit, given so much emphasis on the economy?

Ms. BIRDSALL: I think it's bound to come up because of the connection both to consumption of oil and because of the link to food prices through the biofuel issue. So it will come up, but you know, it won't be at the top of the agenda.

HANSEN: Do you think any pressure will be put on the United States to reduce its carbon emissions?

Ms. BIRDSALL: Well, the fact is the U.S. is emitting 20 tons per person. China is five tons person. India is less than two tons per person. So it seems to me inevitable that other countries will be pressing the U.S. on this issue.

HANSEN: The Group of Eight itself doesn't include China or India or...

Ms. BIRDSALL: No. But these countries are invited to the meeting in the context of what is now being called the G5: China, India, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil. And the fact is that, you know, these emerging market economies are now one half of total world output. So it is definitely time for the G8 to be talking to what used to be called the rest of the world. But these emerging market economies matter for the U.S. and the rest of the G8 as much as the G8 matters for them.

HANSEN: Nancy Birdsall is president of the Center for Global Development. Thank you so much for joining us.

BIRDSALL: My pleasure.

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