» Monday, June 6, 2005

G8/President Bush Visit

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) outlined the thinking ahead of the Prime Minister’s visit to Washington DC. The visit was part of the preparations for Gleneagles, but it was not Gleneagles itself. As such we were not expecting to see a final US position tomorrow, that would come at Gleneagles. In this same way we would be meeting other leaders who would be coming to the G8. We recognised that there were large areas where we were in agreement with the US. We both agreed that Africa was a priority. President Bush had said so himself when he had met President Mbeki recently. We also both agreed that the starting point was what did Africa need. We agreed with the US that that assessment had to be about more than throwing money at the problem. It had to be based on a rigorous process of assessing not just Africa’s need, but also whether proposed aid actually delivered improvement on the ground. That was the approach of the Commission for Africa. Hence it identified the need for improved government as well as increased aid, debt relief and trade access. All of that we and the US were agreed upon. We recognised what the President had already done in trebling aid to Africa from the US from one to four billion dollars. Tomorrow the Prime Minister would want to talk about increased aid, debt relief and trade but it would be against the context of what we agreed upon. It would be building both on what the President had already done in setting up the Millennium Challenge Account, what he said at Monteray and what the US had done to increase aid to Africa. Similarly on Climate Change what we believed was important was that we tried to reach agreement on what we did to address the issue, both in terms of harnessing the new technology and science and in bringing on board the emerging nations who were not part of the Kyoto process. In other words agreeing an action plan for the future. That was where the focus was rather than on continuing the disputes of the past. The time to see the product of the discussions would be at Gleneagles and not tomorrow. We believed we were making real progress and continued to believe that we would do so.

In response to the suggestion that the US Government could not agree to the aid plan because it bound Congress in a way that was unconstitutional, the PMOS said that it was a matter for the US Government to talk about how its relation with Congress worked. The US had tripled aid in the past few years and has done so globally as well as with Africa. We would not be going into the details of the discussions and did not expect details to come out in the next 24 hours. What was important, however, was that we had the discussions about what we were trying to achieve overall and what the implications of that were for the level of aid, debt relief and for trade. Our starting point was what Africa actually needed. This was what was different and a success about the analysis of the Commission for Africa. This was the case that the Prime Minister would be taking to President Bush. Asked if we were saying it was the amount that mattered rather than the mechanism and how it would be guarded against corruption, PMOS said we knew the US position on IFF, we knew their position on 0.7% GDP and we knew their position on Kyoto. You could either have an endless discussion on areas where you knew you were not going to get agreement or you could widen the lens and try to see the problem overall by trying to get discussion and agreement on the overview rather than a particular aspect. This was the approach that we would be taking. The important thing was we fully accepted that the Americans were right to take a hard edged approach to aid in the sense that aid had to be spent on a way that actually improved Africa’s infrastructure, that actually improved education, access to good education and healthcare and that it was sustainable. Aid put in now should result in less aid having to be put in at a later date. We shared that analysis. That could only be done if you had, at the same time, a situation where you had good governance and lack of corruption becoming the norm. If you looked back at the history of democracy in Africa we now had a situation where two thirds of countries in Africa have had multi-party elections in the last five years. We were down from nineteen to one major conflict, Sudan, in Africa. Last year growth levels in 24 African countries reached 5%. We were seeing that the African Union and NEPAD were very different organisations from the Organisation of African Unity, which preceded them. In some countries poverty was reducing. In Mozambique for example you could see a 15% reduction in poverty. So progress could be made but we fully accept that for it to be genuine progress you had to see improvement in governance as well as aid levels.

Asked if there were no expectations of US interest in the International Finance Facility (IFF), the PMOS said that the US position on the IFF was well known. What was important was that we concentrated on where we would get agreement and not on where we would not. Asked how more aid now would be less aid later when in the last 5 years 500 billion had gone in, the PMOS said that what was important was that we actually saw the improvement in governance in the fight against corruption, that people recognised that with out that you were not going to get the improvements. We had seen this in Mozambique where there were real improvements to be seen. Mozambique absorbed a doubling of aid in the 5 years between 1996 and 2001 and reduced poverty by 15% as a result. The same sorts of processes were going on in Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia and Tanzania. Equally, of course you were perfectly entitled to point to countries where there were not improvements. However, with NEPAD and so on we were beginning to see the process of Africa, itself, establishing peer group pressure to drive reform, which then allowed the aid to work.

Asked if we would go ahead anyway without an agreement even if we would like one, the PMOS said that was not the sort of language we were talking in. What you had seen was a development of the intellectual case which recognised that you had to had to see both the economic input and the reform of government to make those inputs work. That was an argument we could take to the US. They had been very hard edged and rather than talking the language of confrontation we should be talking the language of shared analysis and the using implications of that shared analysis for what Africa actually needed.

Asked whether there had been any progress on the IFF and specifically on the vaccination programme, the PMOS said that he would not get into the detail of the discussion as that went against the spirit of what we had been saying. In terms of specific figures we would not go into that because it was not helpful to the process. People would have to wait for Gleneagles for the detail. Overall we believed there needed to be an increase in aid. Overall we believed debt relief was an issue that had to be tackled. Overall we believed access to trade as well as improvements to government had to be tackled. Asked about the US position on the IFF, the PMOS said that he was not going to get into explaining the US position. That was for them to explain. There were the headlines areas where we wanted to see improvements and a gear change. We were making general progress in all those areas and would continue to. The time to judge that was not tomorrow, but at Gleneagles. Our key proposal was that we approached this in a comprehensive way. The key issue was to address the issue of debt relief, which was what we needed to do. We had our position, we had argued long and clearly for that, we would continue to do so. Equally we had to recognise the American position, which President Bush had spelled out very recently. Asked about aid money going straight back into Western banks via corrupt Governments in Africa, the PMOS said that for detail journalists should go to the FCO, but we have fully supported, at the G8 in the past, efforts specifically designed to counter corruption. Asked whether debt relief should be the main focus, the PMOS said that debt relief recognised that if a country was paying off debt to such an extent that it could not invest properly in its public services and its health and education systems and so on then that became a vicious circle. The reality was that unless we moved on debt relief then we would not see the sustainable growth figures that all countries needed.

Asked whom else the Prime Minister would be seeing in Washington, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister would have a number of private meetings, which we would brief on afterwards. Asked if he would be meeting the new head of the World Bank, the PMOS said that he was not aware that he would be.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news


  1. I am a USA citizen. I didn’t vote for George Bush and I am continually discouraged by his policies and appointees. (Specifically John Bolton who is going to be voted on June 7, 2005).

    I have read part of the African Commission Report, chaired by PM Blair. A lot of thought and work went into the report. It should be respected and it would be helpful if George Bush would read it. But I don’t have my hopes up.

    Just recently, I read a report that George Bush gave millions of dollars worth of weapons and F-16 fighter planes to countries in Africa in return for their support for the Iraqi war. There is no guarantee that these weapons won’t get into the hands of the wrong people.

    Another report spoke of George Bush washing his hands of the Liberian crisis. The report that I read claims that the ex-president of Liberia, is causing serious trouble in five different African countries! And Pres. Bush made a deal to give sanctuary in Nigeria to this known criminal instead of justice. Al Quaeda is set up in Eastern African according to the reports that I have read.

    It seems obvious that Pres. Bush’s idea of justice and freedom just doesn’t include the people of Africa. Tony Blair needs to tell his friend that a secure Africa will help secure USA.

    George Bush arrogantly ignores those of us who are not his supporters in the USA. You must know that the man who claims that "freedom is on the march" doesn’t allow anyone but his followers and supporters into his meetings to campaign for social security "reform". This is the same tactic that he used while campaigning for his second term. This tactic doesn’t "fit" a free and open people of a democracy. He claims that the money being requested of the USA for African development doesn’t "fit" the budgetary processes. We are spending $1 billion a day in Iraq.

    When Bush cares Bush spends. Where Bush cares Bush spends. He just doesn’t care about Africans.

    I wish PM Blair would cash in his political favors and get Bush to treat Africans as important.

    Comment by Sandra Hammel — 6 Jun 2005 on 9:03 pm | Link
  2. Correction: The statement that Al Qaeda is reportedly set up in eastern Africa should have stated western Africa.

    Comment by Sandra Hammel — 6 Jun 2005 on 9:07 pm | Link
  3. "AL Qaeda is set up"; does that mean they have an office there?!

    In this day and age, for George Brush to be STILL on about Al Qaeda is verging on the paranoid – or is it just that he’s trying to drum home a message?! By the very same token he could also claim that Al Qaeda "is set up" in the USA – because it seems to me his definition of Al Qaeda (and that of his mates in various ruling cliques around the world – including here) is anyone who doesn’t agree with US foreign policy, and also a lot of its home policy.

    Al Qaeda = all those who are disillusioned with "democracy" and "freedom", American-style. I guess that means then that I myself am Al Qaeda. In fact, I think it means more than half the globes population…

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 7 Jun 2005 on 12:43 pm | Link

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