David Cameron 'proud' of Fermanagh ahead of Lough Erne G8 summit
Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken of his pride at the G8 summit being held in Northern Ireland.
Mr Cameron said the G8 should be inspired by the example of Northern Ireland, noting that it would have been "unthinkable" only 20 years ago to hold a gathering of world leaders there because of the security situation.
"I'm really proud that we're taking the G8 there to showcase this extraordinary part of our country - extraordinarily beautiful but also with wonderfully talented people," he said.
"Northern Ireland's prospects have been transformed by the peace process in the last 20 years, and I think we'll be able to show the world this is a modern and dynamic part of the United Kingdom."
But he said he would not be taking the opportunity to showcase some of the area's leisure opportunities by going fishing or playing a round of golf with fellow leaders, suggesting that photos of them relaxing would not be good for their image with voters.
"I think the issues around golf and fishing aren't so much to do with security as re-electability," he joked.
The world's most powerful leaders, including President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US leader Barack Obama, will gather at Lough Erne resort in Fermanagh on 17-18 June.
Mr Cameron has admitted that one of his central objectives for next week's G8 summit is "hanging in the balance", as wrangling continues over a planned free trade deal between the European Union and the US.
The Prime Minister wants to launch formal negotiations on the deal - potentially worth as much as £10 billion to the UK and £85 billion worldwide - when global leaders gather for the summit in Northern Ireland on Monday.
But progress will depend on breaking the deadlock in talks in Brussels on Friday over France's insistence that any agreement must include protections for its film and TV industries against US imports.
Alongside tax and transparency, trade is one of the "Three Ts" which Mr Cameron has put at the heart of his agenda for the UK's year-long presidency of the G8 - as well as the fourth T of action against terrorism.
Speaking to the international press in London, Mr Cameron said action on these "vital drivers of growth" could make a "real difference" to the recovery from the global downturn by boosting economic activity and creating jobs worldwide.
There was "no better way to show our commitment than by trying to launch negotiations for the EU/US trade deal," said the PM.
But he acknowledged: "Right now, this is hanging in the balance. Discussions are ongoing on both sides of the Atlantic and we've got to find ambition and political will to do this.
"I hope to close an EU deal with Canada as well. It will be worth the effort: the EU/ US deal alone would inject 100 billion euros into the global economy and that's on top of the £10 billion of benefits here in the UK, 63 billion in the US."
Mr Cameron outlined key priorities of the two-day gathering, which will bring together the leaders of the UK, US, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia in the beautiful surroundings of Lough Erne in County Fermanagh.
:: A G8 push for a World Trade Organisation deal to cut bureaucracy at borders, which could be worth an additional £45 billion to the global economy. Mr Cameron said this would particularly benefit countries in Africa, where truckers transporting goods from South Africa to Rwanda need as many as 1,000 documents to negotiate border posts.
:: Advice on planning and private investment to help Africa to double trade between the continent's countries by 2022.
:: Action to crack down on tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance, including new standards to identify companies' ultimate owners, automatic exchange of information between tax authorities and reform of international tax rules to reflect the modern globalised economy.
:: Higher transparency standards for gas, oil and mining companies operating in the poor world, as well as greater transparency in land transactions.
:: A drive to make more data available to citizens so they can hold governments to account.
Mr Cameron described the package as "a unique agenda to help the developed and developing world to grow together".
He said: "It's a vision, as I like to call it, of proper companies, proper taxes, proper rules. That's what it's about: very, very powerful agenda. Britain really squarely putting it on the global agenda."
The crisis in Syria will also a priority for the summit, with Mr Cameron calling for talks at Lough Erne to focus on "the tangible steps we can take to help forge a political transition", rather than the issue of whether to arm rebel groups.
On counter-terrorism, he confirmed that he wants the G8 to discuss sharing out the work of tackling the threat of extremist violence from an arc of states in north Africa and the Sahel, stretching from Algeria and Mali to Somalia.
Already, France has taken the lead in Mali and Britain in Somalia, and Mr Cameron would like to see agreement between G8 states on this kind of burden-sharing, to prevent duplication of effort.
He is also hoping for agreement that G8 states will not pay ransoms for their nationals who are kidnapped by terror gangs.
"This would suffocate one of the main sources of funding for these terrorist organisations, and of course would reduce the incentive to take our citizens hostage," he said.
Mr Cameron acknowledged that the G8 would need "political will" to tackle all these issues head on, but insisted "I believe we can rise to the challenge."
Belfast Telegraph Digital