The G-7 finance ministers meeting in Halifax this week won’t have much time for sightseeing, according to a Dalhousie University academic.
Fazley Siddiq, a professor of public administration at the Halifax university, said the delegates will have a satchel full of issues to discuss, everything from the looming U.S. budget deficit, to Third World debt relief, to cutting off money flow to terrorist organizations.
And then there is the small matter of a potential nuclear war on the Indian subcontinent.
“It would be nice if (the ministers) could focus simply on the economic and stabilization issues facing the industrialized countries ... and see how best we might be able to meet the challenges, but it’s going to be far more than that,” Siddiq said.
The worsening political situation in many parts of the world — such as India-Pakistan, the Middle East, Argentina and Colombia — can’t help but intrude on the finance ministers’ meetings.
“It’s going to be a full plate because of the international tensions,” Siddiq said.
But it is work the finance ministers have to get done, given the importance their meeting has in setting the agenda for the annual summit of their political superiors.
Siddiq said the ministers, who meet four times a year, get time to work over issues — most of which are often economic in nature — that dominate the summit
“This is almost a preview of the big one,” he said. “I see our prime minister or the U.S president taking the cue from what might have happened at these meetings of the ministers of finance.”
The all-business format of finance ministers’ meeting reflects the great changes that have occurred in the loosely knit organization since
Halifax hosted the G-7 leaders in 1995.
An opinion piece that appeared in the July 20, 2000, edition of the Los Angeles Times, said the annual meetings are “no longer pompous photo-ops.”
“The turning point came in Halifax in 1995, when two developments focused the talks being held there,” the authors said.
The two issues were the successful response to the financial meltdown in Mexico and a realization by G-7 leaders that “governing the global economy was not simply about managing markets.”
Addressing such concerns makes it is difficult for countries to focus on such bilateral issues as the current dispute between Canada and the United States over softwood lumber duties, Siddiq said.
Still, the fact the finance ministers from the two countries will be in the same room in downtown Halifax is a chance for Canada to push the issue.
“If I was (Canadian Finance Minister) John Manley, I would certainly make a mental note to raise the situation ... Something to talk about over dinner or cocktails,” Siddiq said.
The expected protests outside the World Trade and Convention Centre will have little impact on the discussions Siddiq said, other than to remind the ministers there are other pressing global issues, such as the environment and corporate-driven globalization.
“If the demonstrations are peaceful, it’s a way of communication. But that said, I don’t think they are going to swing too much the big items on the table.”
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