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Vol 43 No 12

Published 14th June 2002

Climbing to the summit

Rich countries may help on peacekeeping and health but will offer little to African exporters

In Canada's Rocky Mountain retreat of Kananaskis, leaders of rich countries will meet on 26-27 June to hammer out an African action plan on trade, aid, security and development. Officials from the Group of 8 (G-8) say their action plan will be 'short, readable and executive', backed by a bigger document detailing commitments and time-frames. It will be the rich-country response to the the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NePAD, AC Vol 43 Nos 2 & 4), under which Africa commits itself to political and economic reforms monitored by its own institutions, while the G-8 states open their markets, boost aid and encourage private investment. Few expect headlines from Kananaskis. Winding down expectations, Western officials insist that the real innovation is that Africa is being discussed in such detail at such a high level. Expect strong rhetorical support on health and education, peace and security but 'realism' on new aid commitments and debt relief. And expect very few concessions on trade reform. Rich countries, quarrelling among themselves about 'temporary' trade restrictions, won't offer much new access to African producers or lower subsidies to rich-country farmers. The best outcome on trade, according to one senior British advisor, would be 'good language' (medium-term commitments on trade by G-8 states) for use by African countries in subsequent World Trade Organisation negotiations.

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