DAVID Cameron has told fellow G8 leaders they must start work now on preparing “bold steps” to take when they meet in Northern Ireland in June for the annual summit.
The Prime Minister, in a letter marking the start of the UK’s presidency of the group, warned he would not allow a summit where rich nations “simply whip out a chequebook at the 11th hour, pledge some money and call it a success”.
And he signalled that the UK was looking for concrete moves in three key areas - including the potential for signing up to an anti-corruption measure for extraction industries to encourage poorer countries to follow suit. There could also be new measures to tackle global tax avoidance, he suggested.
The summit will see US president Barack Obama, Russian president Vladimir Putin, German chancellor Angela Merkel and other world leaders gather for two days at the Lough Erne golf resort in Co Fermanagh.
It will be the first time the annual summit has been held in the UK since Gleneagles in Scotland in 2005 – the last occasion the British Government chaired the G8.
In his letter, Mr Cameron said the world continued to face “grave economic uncertainty” in 2013 and that the top priority would remain each country’s own domestic challenges.
But he added: “As leaders of eight countries making up around half of the world’s entire GDP, the ambitious standards we set and the bold steps we take by working together through the G8 can make a tangible difference by firing up economies and driving prosperity, not just in our own countries, but all over the world.
“I hope that at Lough Erne we can seize this opportunity. At the heart of my agenda for the Summit are three issues – advancing trade, ensuring tax compliance and promoting greater transparency.
“All of them are areas where I believe the G8 can play a distinctive role, using our commitment to open economies, open governments and open societies to support enterprise and deliver economic growth.
“But to achieve this will require strong political leadership and months of detailed policy work from our teams.
“This G8 will not be the kind of Summit where we simply whip out a chequebook at the 11th hour, pledge some money and call it a success. What we are talking about are long-term changes in our countries and the rules that govern the relationships between them.
“With ambition on this scale, I am convinced that success depends on us starting a debate on these changes now.”
He said he hoped to “galvanise collective international action” on tax evasion, including sharing information to help developing countries tackle abuses.
“We can work together to sign more countries up to the international standards. And we can examine the case for strengthening those standards themselves – whether by improving existing standards or looking at new ones,” he said.
“These are complex questions, and will involve honest and detailed discussion about the right approach. But I do believe that as leaders, we all have a common interest in being able to tell our taxpayers who work hard and pay their fair share of taxes, that we will make sure others do the same.”
He said there also needed to be a renewed focus on “transparency, accountability and open government” surrounding the aid given to poor countries.
Showing voters where their money was spent was “vital” to maintaining support for the help, he said, amid continued controversy over his decision to maintain spending at a time of austerity measures at home.
But it was also important to work with those countries accepting aid to “prevent money laundering and stamp out bribery and corruption”.
As part of that agenda, he said he had ordered an urgent review of the UK’s failure to sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative which published payments by firms to governments.
Only the US had done so among G8 countries, he pointed out, suggesting it set a bad lesson. He is likely to face a stiff battle from some in the industry.
“We cannot call on other countries to live up to these high standards if we are not prepared to do so ourselves. That is why I have asked for an urgent review of the UK position,” he said.
On trade, he said, the “single biggest prize of all would be the beginning of negotiations on an EU-US trade agreement”.