Russia assumes G8 presidency, lays out key agenda

Russian President Vladimir Putin has outlined the plan for the joint work of the group – which includes the US, the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Britain, Japan, Canada, Russia and representatives of the European Union – in a statement published on a newly-launched website for Russia’s G8 presidency.
Russia’s motto for its 2014 G8 presidency is “Risk Management for Sustainable Growth in a Safe World,” the statement said.

Based on this motto, the priority issues advanced by Russia include “fighting the drug menace, combating terrorism and extremism, settling regional conflicts, safeguarding people’s health, and establishing a global management system to address risks associated with natural and manmade disasters,” Putin wrote.

He added that “numerous other issues that have previously been raised by the G8” have also been included, and some of them have already been discussed in St. Petersburg in 2006 during Russia’s first G8 presidency.

The Russian president said that “the world has not become safer in recent years, but it has undoubtedly become more complicated,” saying that while the violent conflicts are growing in numbers, the system of international law is “losing ground.”

Image from g8russia.ruImage from

In 2013, the meetings of Russia and some of its G8 club partners have been crucial in avoiding the escalation of the Syrian crisis at a point when a foreign intervention into the war-torn country seemed unavoidable. Another international group that includes Russia, P5+1, worked out a landmark agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, raising hopes for international trade and investment opportunities in still heavily-sanctioned country.

G8 countries have also been playing a leading role in the global economy, producing 50 percent of the world’s GDP and making 38 percent of its exports and imports combined, according to figures given at the Also, according to Interfax, the G8 economies together produce 32 percent of the world’s energy.

According to Putin, Russia does not view the G8 as “an elite club of world leaders who discuss the destiny of humanity behind closed doors.” In line with this stance, non-governmental G8 groups – Youth 8, Civil 8, Business 8 and Parliamentary 8 – are going to provide “crucial support to Russia”during its G8 presidency.

The idea of transparency and those of “dynamism, innovation and progress” have been reflected in the constructivist logo for Russia’s presidency, inspired by the Russian Avant-Garde art movement of the early 20th century, the official webpage says. The circles-based logo is also meant to be an allusion to the fact that the June 4-5 G8 summit will take place in the southern Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi, which is hosting the Winter Olympics in February.

The international forum started as a Group of Six in 1975, saw Canada and the EU representatives added in 1976 and 1977, and grew to G8 since Russia’s official joining the Group of Seven in 1997. Although the G7 meetings still take place, with the latest having been in the UK last May on the level of finance ministers of the countries, they have focused on pressing economic issues and are not summoned every year. The G8 meetings are annual and have included broader range of topics, such as global security, healthcare and education.


Historic Trade Deal with Europe Moves Forward, Despite US Snooping

The US –EU transatlantic trade deal, will go to a second round of talks in mid- November, but could hit a stumbling block over Germany’s demand for data protection as a condition to signing the treaty.

The EU and US policymakers agreed to hold two more rounds of trade negotiations over the next two months, The Wall Street Journal reports. The first round will take place in Brussels on November 11-15 and cover investment and energy sector trade, as well as address regulatory issues. In December officials will congregate in Washington DC for another round of talks.

After learning about the NSA special surveillance program on more than 80 embassies and consulates worldwide, including German government offices and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal cell phone, Germany has pushed for tough data protection goals before the free trade pact is finalized.

US still hasn’t provided any guarantees it will curb spying on its allies.

First talks were held on July 8 in Washington DC.

Originally the second round of talks were scheduled for October 7-11 in Brussels, but were delayed due to the US government shutdown.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which has the potential to boost economic growth by $100 billion per year in reduced tariffs, was agreed on at  the G8 summit in  Northern Ireland in June.

Shortly after, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked information showing the extent of USespionage on allies abroad. In response, France and other EU members said there could be no trade negotiation unless the US could guarantee it would halt spying operation on EU allies.

The “once in a generation prize” could add as much as about $157 billion to the EU economy, over $125 billion to the US economy and as much as around US$ 133 billion to the rest of the world, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said at the G8 summit. Over 98 percent of EU tariffs would be eliminated under the accord.

President Obama said the ‘economic NATO’, which would be the world’s largest trade agreement, is a priority for his administration and will hopefully be signed by the end of 2013.

EU diplomats traveled to Washington to discuss the NSA spy fallout, but weren’t satisfied with the answers they received, which failed to justify the eavesdropping on EU leaders by the US.

The trade deal could be a vital economic turnaround for the 28 EU members, which are just starting to emerge from recession. In 2012, the EU’s economy was $17 trillion, according to Eurostat.

In the aftermath of extending bilateral trade ties, the deal is due to cover about 50 percent of global economic output, 30 percent of global trade and 20 percent of global foreign direct investment.

On November 1, Germany and Brazil submitted a new draft resolution to the UN General Assembly which calls for an end to excessive electronic surveillance, data collection, and other snooping techniques.


image: Reuters / Tobias Schwarz