This meeting, in Northern Ireland’s Belfast, was chaired by British Prime Minister David Cameron, since his nation holds the group’s presidency this year. London’s three main goals are trade, taxation and transparency. Despite the usual flurry of ponderous public statements and breathless press analyses, the meeting was a waste. Consider the official agenda.
- Trade. This is important, given the collapse of the latest round of trade liberalization. However, the G8 was unable to achieve much. One of the main stumbling blocks was agricultural subsidies by the U.S. and European Union. Yet nothing here has changed or will change. To the contrary, Congress is considering an expensive new farm bill and the E.U. maintains the even more expensive Common Agricultural Policy.
Proposals for Asia‐Pacific and transatlantic trade liberalization remain ever complicated and perhaps impossible. America is pursuing the Trans‐Pacific Partnership, but including Japan while excluding China creates significant political complications. Although the European Union is moving ahead with negotiations over a pact with America, the obstacles to reaching a meaningful accord remain high. Europe is involved in a no‐win trade tiff with China.
- Taxation. If there is one issue on which politicians of every nation agree, it is the need to squeeze ever more tightly. Hence the concerted attack on “tax havens” and “aggressive tax planning,” especially by multinationals. Before the summit the European Union issued a press release drily opining on how “tax fraud and tax evasion limit the capacity governments to raise money and implement their economic and social policies.”
Of course, the latter usually can be summarized as paying off interest groups and turning citizens into dependents. If politicians were not so avaricious and special interests were not so domineering, productive people across the globe could keep more of their hard‐earned cash and would have less incentive to evade taxes. Alas, the G8 pushed for further violations of their citizens’ privacy in order to gain more revenue.
- Transparency. The G8 proposed small steps to promote transparency and combat corruption in global commerce. The latter, especially, is a worthwhile effort, but the biggest offenders, of course, are non‐G8 members throughout the Third World. Conferences, codes, legislation, proclamations and the like all will have only limited effects so long as governments of poor countries constitute systems of organized looting.
The biggest single step in this direction the G8 could take would be to discourage rather than encourage government‐to‐government transfers, or misnamed “foreign aid.” At least at this meeting the group avoided the standard boilerplate promises to up official financial development assistance. It would be better to cut the financial windpipe of the most corrupt and wasteful regimes.