Blair to push for progress on trade and climate change

Tony Blair is determined to use this weekend’s Group of Eight summit to boost progress on two fronts – climate change and world trade.

On climate change, the British prime minister is looking to hasten progress on a post-Kyoto agreement that must take effect from 2012.

International discussion on climate change has focused recently on setting a long-term target to stabilise the rise in the earth’s temperature, ensuring it does not go beyond a certain point. Governments have also been considering setting a new global framework on carbon dioxide emissions, ensuring they never rise beyond a set “parts per million” limit in the earth’s atmosphere.

This weekend’s summit should aim to boost the chance of real progress being made at October’s Mexico meeting of the Gleneagles “G8 plus five” dialogue on climate change, officials said.

British officials said on Friday that Mr Blair – along with G8 leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Jacques Chirac and Italy’s Romano Prodi – want the framework agreed much earlier.

This weekend’s summit should boost the chance of real progress being made at October’s Mexico meeting of the Gleneagles “G8 plus five” dialogue on climate change, the officials said. Some officials are even talking about a post-2012 climate-change framework being agreed at the 2007 G8 summit under the German presidency.

On trade, restarting the crisis-stricken Doha round of talks will be the other main priority for Britain and other states. The G8 will have a meeting on Monday with Pascal Lamy, director-general of the World Trade Organisation, and big emerging markets – including Brazil, India and China – that wield influence in trade talks and often attend side-meetings at G8 summits.

But the EU may find it difficult to agree to strike deals at the meeting. Only four of its 25 member states will be present along with José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president.

Mr Blair’s enthusiasm for a far-reaching deal across agriculture, goods and services contrasts with Jacques Chirac, the French president, who has led a campaign within the EU to stop it offering deep cuts in its farm tariffs.

Unless all sides can agree actual numbers for cutting industrial goods and farm tariffs by the end of July, it will be very hard to complete the round in time to get through Congress before the expiration of the White House’s authority to negotiate entire trade deals.

British officials said the critical goal was that all leaders come out of Monday’s discussion giving a clear signal that their negotiators take the extra steps to reach an agreement in the next few weeks.

Apart from discussion of the crisis on the Middle East – which is certain to dominate the leaders’ private discussions – Britain is stressing that Africa is an important issue for the summit. However, British officials insist the discussion is aimed at ensuring the Gleneagles agreements – especially the commitment to increase aid to Africa by $50bn by 2010 – are implemented.

On energy, Britain believes the final summit communiqué contains good language that stresses that global energy policies must be interdependent rather than allowing any one country – such as Russia – to exercise political muscle.

Additional reporting by Alan Beattie

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