Blair chides G8 for failure on world trade deal
By Madeline Chambers
LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Tony Blair said
on Monday the Group of Eight industrialized nations had failed
to make progress on some of last year’s commitments to end
global poverty, particularly on world trade.
In a speech at London University, Blair urged world leaders
to do more to lift Africa out of poverty and tackle climate
change, Britain’s twin priorities as G8 President last year.
He singled out trade as his main disappointment in the 2005
agenda but said there was still a chance for a breakthrough.
“We are not there yet, the coming month will be critical,”
said Blair, long a campaigner for a trade deal which he says
would boost the world’s economy and save millions from poverty.
“Everyone will have to move beyond their comfort zones …
failure would not only be a blow for the poor but the whole
idea of multilateralism,” he said.
World Trade Organization members are struggling to strike a
deal on cutting farm subsidies and reducing tariffs.
The prime minister will soon write to world leaders setting
out how he sees the way ahead, said his spokesman.
Spurred on by millions of people attending concerts around
the world to press for action, the Group last year promised an
extra $50 billion a year in aid for all developing countries by
2010, including $25 billion for Africa.
As aid groups fear momentum has been lost since Russia took
over the G8 presidency this year, Blair said he was determined
to ensure the promises are kept.
A new panel, backed by rocker-turned-campaigner Bob Geldof
and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan will be set up to track
how G8 nations are living up to their aid promises, he said.
Blair also pledged a doubling of Britain’s education fund
to 1 billion pounds a year by 2010.
But campaigners say a panel is no substitute for political
“The true test of its credibility is whether it spurs G8
countries into going further than they have to date,” said
Patrick Watt, policy coordinator for campaign group Action Aid.
Microsoft Corp’s billionaire founder Bill Gates’ Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation will help fund the panel.
(Additional reporting by Kate Kelland and Astrid Zweynert)