Belfast Telegraph

Friday 4 September 2015

It’s time for ‘T’ as Cameron’s agenda on tax, trade and transparency jostles with Syria war at G8 summit

By Liam Clarke

Published 17/06/2013

Prime Minister David Cameron walks with Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers (second right) and Wing Commander Faye Wiseman (left) after arriving at Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland, ahead of the G8 Summit.
Prime Minister David Cameron walks with Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers (second right) and Wing Commander Faye Wiseman (left) after arriving at Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland, ahead of the G8 Summit.
US President Barack Obama holds a baby at a Father's Day luncheon to celebrate the importance of strong families and mentorship in the State Dining Room of the White House. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
Protesters from Amnesty International dressed in orange jump suits and masks hold placards demanding that Barack Obama, closes Guantanamo, as they congregate outside the Waterfront, Belfast, ahead of the G8 summit. Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Anti G8 protesters set up camp in Enniskillen town centre. Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye.
Police officers including members of the PSNI undergo riot training and the use of dogs at Longmoor Army Camp. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
A woman walks past a derelict shop, its windows covered in giant posters to make it look like a deli store, in Fivemiletown, Northern Ireland. Organizers of the G8 have spent weeks sprucing up the facades of businesses all around the County Fermanagh venue. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
Enniskillen Town Centre gets a face lift ahead of the G8. By John McVitty
A woman walks past a derelict shop, its windows covered in giant posters to make it look like a cafe, in Enniskillen. Organizers have spent weeks sprucing up the facades of businesses all around the County Fermanagh venue.(AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
Temporary cell blocks which have been built at Omagh police station in Co Tyrone, which are being made available for G8 summit protests. By Paul Faith/PA Wire
Temporary cell blocks which have been built at Omagh police station in Co Tyrone, which are being made available for G8 summit protests. Paul Faith/PA Wire
Perspex on the windows at Belfast City Hall ahead of the G8 that will take place next week at Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Lough Erne Golf Resort of hotel manager Ferghal Purcell in one of the plush rooms that will host the world leaders. Cliff Donaldson/Lough Erne Golf Resort/PA Wire
Chefs at Fermanagh's Lough Erne Resort have been working on the G8 menus for four months. Local delicacies will include yellowman ice-cream with a dulse garnish, Toomebridge eels with a sweet red onion marmalade and, of course, the Ulster fry with black and white pudding.
Razor wire which has been laid in fields near the Lough Erne resort in County Fermanagh
Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, observes the final G8 security arrangements at the Lough Erne resort, with Chief Inspector Sue Ann Steen. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
Police man a checkpoint at the entrance to Lough Erne Hotel resort. Paul Faith/PA Wire
Divers check water features in fields near Lough Erne Hotel. Paul Faith/PA Wire
PSNI officers patroling on Lough Erne ahead of the G8 Summit. By John McVitty.
An anti-G8 mural unveiling at the back of Free Derry Corner. By John Black
The launch of the 'Big IF Belfast' concert at Botanic Gardens. The IF campaign will call on the world's most powerful leaders to ensure the eradication of world hunger is top of the agenda. Photo: Neil Harrison
The new banner unveiled for the G8 protest at Belfast City Hall organised by the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions
BBC journalist,Chris Buckler films a segment to promote Fermanagh on BBC Breakfast. Interviewing Lough Erne Resorts Head Chef, Noel McMeel and General Manager, Ferghal Purcell. Photo by Raymond Humphreys
Local artist Peter Meanley and the Ulster Museum's Curator of Applied Art Elise Taylor admire the eight bespoke Toby jugs of the G8 leaders. The jugs took 5 months to create and are currently on display at the Ulster Museum. Photographer Brian Thompson / presseye.com
A car makes its way along a security fence erected around the G8 venue
Police officers including members of the PSNI undergo riot training including the use of a water cannon at Longmoor Army Camp
Oxfam's 'Big Head' G8 leaders arrive in Northern Ireland
Oxfam's 'Big Head' G8 leaders arrive in Northern Ireland
Security in fields near the Lough Erne resort
A ring of steel is erected on the A46 Lough Shore Road in preparation
Police officers including members of the PSNI undergo riot training including the use of dog handlers at Longmoor Army Camp
A water Cannon leaves a security check point near the Lough Erne resort
Belfast's M2 and Oxford Street in the city centre will be shut at rush hour on Monday, June 17 for Barack Obama's welcome visit.
Toyoshige Sekiguchi, the anti-capitalist Buddhist monk who has walked from Belfast to Enniskillen to bring his campaign for nuclear disarmament to the G8 leaders
Armed police guard McDonalds, a previous target for G8 protestors as thousands protest in Belfast against the G8 summit. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
G8 protester Ziggy believes many protesters have been put off travelling to Northern Ireland
G8 protester Andrew Carnegie with his dog Grace
Armed PSNI officers alongside officers from police forces around the UK stand guard in the fields over looking the Lough Erne resort, Enniskillen. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
PSNI officers alongside officers from police forces around the UK stand guard in Enniskillen town. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
Armed police guard McDonalds, a previous target for G8 protestors as thousands protest in Belfast against the G8 summit. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
An anti-fracking boat pictured on Lough Erne. Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye.
G8 protesters Darren Carnegie(left) and his father Andrew from Glasgow pictured in Enniskillen town centre. Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye.
Police stand on a bridge over the River Erne near the location of the G8 summit on June 16, 2013 in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. The G8 group of world leaders will meet tomorrow in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
A police patrol boat passes under a police vehicle on a bridge over the River Erne near the location of the G8 summit on June 16, 2013 in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. The G8 group of world leaders will meet tomorrow in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
A police officer patrols near to the location of the G8 summit on June 16, 2013 in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. The G8 group of world leaders will meet tomorrow in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

As the official G8 host, it is down to David Cameron to set the agenda on what will be discussed by the world’s most powerful leaders.

As leader of the UK during its G8 presidency year, he has focused the formal agenda on tax, trade and transparency, known as ‘The Three Ts’.

Inevitably the burning question of Syria, and Russia’s influence, is elbowing its way in from the fringes.

A fifth, unofficial, theme is the promotion of Northern Ireland as a model for conflict transformation and a place for G8 countries to invest.

That, more modest, objective is the one on which most progress is likely to be made.

Today, at around 3pm, Mr Cameron will greet the G8 leaders and then swiftly hand them over to Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson who will host a reception tea for them in the Lough Erne Golf Resort’s library.

That will be an attempt to pitch the province for a G8 branded trade and investment conference here in October.

Barring a bomb or other disaster, this is something that is unlikely to go wrong. The US is backing it and other countries are likely to turn up.

Mr Cameron could say the same for the current conflict in Syria.

His last meeting before departing for the G8 last night was with Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader. Mr Putin is staunchly opposed to the proposal by the UK, France and America to arm rebel forces with the sort of heavy weaponry they need to take out Syrian government tanks and aircraft.

There is, journalists were told in Foreign office briefings on Saturday, little prospect of movement from the Russians who have, in the past, supplied many of the tanks and planes held by Bashir Assad’s Syrian regime.

Mr Cameron’s hand is weakened by a backlash from Tory MPs. They fear that any weapons supplied could fall into the hands of Islamist militants who could then use them against western forces.

There is no guarantee that his party would back him; it could even become a confidence issue.

Mr Cameron’s best hope is that Mr Putin will pressure the Assad regime to join a peace conference with the Free Syrian army.

Then the threat of arming the rebels would bring pressure on the Assad regime to settle. This is a strategy which Mr Putin can make or break if he holds his nerve, and he usually does.

The issue could well be on the agenda during talks between Putin and US president Barack Obama when they are scheduled to meet at 5pm.

The official ‘T Agenda’ of tax, trade and transparency is built on the premise that we would have an economic recovery if trade barriers could be reduced and multinational companies paid their taxes where they earned their income.

There are negotiations to free up trade between the G8 countries, especially between North America, Japan and Europe. The UK estimates that if these negotiations succeed the world’s income would be boosted by £636.68bn a year.

It is also estimated that completing the agreements would boost the EU’s GDP by £100bn a year.

The fear is that if trade is freed up it will give multinational companies even more scope to move profits around.

The Irish tax regime has re

cently been under scrutiny. It not only charges a low rate of corporation taxes on businesses, 12.5%, but is also at the centre of a number of schemes which allow companies such as Apple to practically avoid tax altogether.

These generally involve setting up Irish registered offshore companies in overseas tax havens, where they do little business, and shifting their income there. The more trade is freed up and ‘red tape’ is cut down the easier it will be to do this sort of thing on an even bigger scale.

That is where the transparency regime comes in. Mr Cameron has already asked tax havens in British dependencies to disclose the ultimate owners of companies registered with them. Third world countries suffer heavily on mineral profits.

The US often loses out through profit shifting. Yet even some American states like Delaware do not keep the sort of the records being asked for.

Closing the tax loopholes would require global agreement to work.

There is a big incentive for every individual country to line its own pockets at the expense of the others.

Mr Cameron will have done well if he can secure even outline agreement.

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