x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Plan of action aims to achieve lasting global change

Taxes, transparency and trade are high on the agenda at the G8 summit, writes the Ambassador of the UK to the UAE.

The leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) are gathered in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland this week for the 39th Summit of the group, to address global economic and international security issues together.

As it does every eight years, the United Kingdom holds the presidency this year. Before I go into the elements of what is being discussed by the leaders of the UK, US, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia, I'd like to reflect on how apt it is, when we are collectively driving for change towards greater security and prosperity, that Northern Ireland - with its troubled past - is the host for the summit, and just how far this beautiful part of the UK has come over the past two decades.

Today, Northern Ireland is flourishing in every respect. I for one have been deeply impressed by how much it has to offer when ministers from Northern Ireland have visited the UAE. For example, did anyone know that the carpeting for much of the Burj Al Arab is from Ulster? And Derry-Londonderry has been chosen as the first ever UK city of culture.

Now to the summit itself - the priorities for this presidency can be simplified as the "3 Ts": taxes, transparency and trade. While on the surface these issues might appear dull, they are actually of pivotal importance to the global economy and global governance. Essentially in choosing these as focal points, the UK prime minister, David Cameron, is making clear that the positive impacts of non-aid policies are just as important for development, if not more. And through these, the UK has written some truly practical concerns into the heart of the G8 agenda.

So, a bit more on the 3 Ts:

First, ensuring tax compliance. This is about taking firm action against tax evasion and avoidance that will allow countries to collect the tax that is due to them. Without such action, governments will not be able to provide services to improve citizens' lives - be it in education, health or anything else. And clamping down in one or just a few countries simply won't work, as the cash will just move elsewhere - which is why international rules and standards need to be strengthened.

Second, promoting greater transparency. Here we are talking about making progress on mandatory reporting of payments by companies. It's imperative that citizens know how much revenue their governments are getting from business and should be able to hold them to account on how that money is being used. In particular, we are driving for more transparency in mining, oil and gas, so that people in developing countries can see how their mineral wealth is being used, and so that all companies, wherever they're from - Europe, America, Asia - are competing on a level playing field.

And, finally, advancing trade. Trade is key to economic growth and job creation and so a key feature of the summit is a commitment to reduce trade barriers and highlight the benefits of liberalisation.

For example, the free trade agreement between the US and EU could add as much as £10 billion (Dh57 billion) to the UK economy. In this respect I'm pleased that trade is a fundamental cornerstone of the UK-UAE relationship and that we are on track to meet the joint aim of reaching bilateral trade of £12bn by 2015.

A week ago, Mr Cameron gave a speech from the London Gateway in Essex. This was particularly important for me because of the huge collaboration between the UK and the UAE through the investment by Dubai Ports World into creating the largest deep-sea container port and logistics park in northern Europe.

The UK and UAE are trading nations whose prosperity depends on the maintenance of global peace and security. That is why G8 leaders will also want to focus on stability around the world, including the Middle East. Through the Deauville Partnership, the UK and the UAE, along with others, are committed to helping the transition countries of Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan on the priorities of supporting SMEs, asset recovery and women's participation in business.

The other regional issue being discussed in depth is Syria. Britain, along with France, the UAE and other countries, will continue to help the Syrian opposition. There has to be negotiation and a transitional government. That is the only way to get peace and stability for Syria, and greater security for the region. So, we will continue with those policies, and continue working very closely with countries like the UAE, which share our analysis of just how damaging and dangerous the current situation in Syria is.

In my eyes, the benefits of action in all these areas are clearly not just for the G8 economies but the entire globe - which is, let's be honest, struggling to achieve prosperity and security for its people.

The UK prime minister's hope is that change in these critical areas will help lead to lasting change around the globe - just as we have seen in Northern Ireland after years of conflict. I for one will be watching closely.


Dominic Jermey is the ambassador of the United Kingdom to the UAE

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