Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

What will be on the agenda at the G8 summit?

Amazon's tax avoidance is on there along with Syria and the global response to dementia. Eamonn Donaghy takes a sneak preview of the G8 agenda.

Taxes of firms like Amazon will be discussed at the G8
Taxes of firms like Amazon will be discussed at the G8
Last year's G8

In just two weeks' time, at a picturesque hotel on the shores of the Fermanagh lakes, the leaders of the world's eight largest economies will meet for the G8 Lough Erne summit.

The summit agenda will be wide-ranging, covering the major economic and socio-political issues facing the world today.

The UK currently holds the G8 presidency and the prime minister, David Cameron, wants to focus on the development of open economies, open governments and open societies by prioritising discussions on the three 'T's – trade, tax and transparency.

So what are the eight key issues likely to be exercising the minds of Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and the other G8 delegates on Lough Erne's shores? And what do they mean for the rest of us?

1. Tax transparency

In recent months, significant attention has been paid to the tax affairs of large multi-national corporations. Whether it be Google, Amazon, Starbucks, or Apple, each of these organisations has faced the accusation of paying insufficient tax in the countries in which they carry on their business – specifically the Irish Republic.

While this may have resulted in public outcry, each of the organisations have been able to claim that they have not broken any laws.

It is clear, though, that the current system of international tax legislation is outdated and not in line with modern business practices – or, indeed, public opinion.

The G8 is committed to introducing tougher tax transparency rules, a new global standard for information exchange between tax authorities and better global reporting to tax authorities.

However, while identifying these issues as being necessary to achieve a greater link between the tax companies pay in each country and the profits made in that country, this can only be achieved if each of the countries in the G8 agrees to move in unison.

Otherwise, those countries which introduce stricter tax legislation will lose out to those countries which do not.

While this month's G8 summit will make a start in this process, it will not be in a position to deliver a final solution, which may take several years to achieve.

2. Free trade agreement between the US and the EU

There will also be an attempt to establish a free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States, to reduce import duties on goods sold between these two continents.

The UK Government has stated that, if a free trade area could be put in place, this could generate up to £10 billion of additional benefit to the UK economy.

3. Greater trading links within Africa

In an attempt to mirror the 'Tiger' economies of south-east Asia (and, indeed, the Celtic Tiger in the Republic), the G8 wishes to facilitate African 'Lion' economies.

It is believed this can be achieved by facilitating greater trade between the developing countries of Africa.

The G8 will, therefore, look at ways to help African countries reduce the huge amount of bureaucracy, which stifles economic growth.

4. Greater financial transparency

Many developing countries are rich in minerals, but are not able to fully benefit from this wealth due to the illicit mining and exploitation.

The G8 wants to facilitate a global common standard for resource-extracting companies to report all payments to governments and for those governments to report those revenues to their nations.

The aim is to encourage more self-investment in resource-rich countries and level the playing field for businesses.

5. A global response to dementia

The G8 has identified that dementia is quickly becoming the biggest burden on healthcare systems around the globe.

As a result, the summit will focus on exploring opportunities to advance thinking on dementia research and to facilitate greater international collaboration.

6. Somalia and Syria

The rebuilding of Somalia, following its years of internal strife, is ongoing and should help this country move away from its reputation as one of the most lawless places on the planet.

Similarly, the G8 will consider an appropriate response to the ongoing conflict in Syria.

However, there is disagreement within the members of the G8 on how to resolve this conflict and difficult negotiations will have to take place.

7. Dealing with conflict

The G8 will look at and consider the ways to prevent sexual violence in conflict situations. There will also be discussions on addressing the proliferation and means of delivery of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), with the G8's commitment to seek a means for eliminating all nuclear weapons, while maintaining international security.

8. Low corporation tax for Northern Ireland

Sadly, this will not be on the agenda for the G8 summit.

While the prime minister had lauded the UK's low rate of corporation tax as a means of growing the economy, there is unlikely to be any discussion within the G8 about whether the Assembly should be given the power to vary corporation tax-rates.

However, each of the leaders of the G8 will understand what impact lower corporation tax rates will have on an economy.

An endorsement from these leaders for low corporation tax in Northern Ireland as a means of stimulating our economy would be greatly welcomed by businesses here.

So, all in all, there is an awful lot to talk about over two days in Fermanagh.

While this summit will not provide all the answers, many of the key issues will be discussed and – hopefully – considerable progress made.

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