G8 summit to focus on tax, trade and transparency

G8 summit to focus on tax, trade and transparency

Tax, trade and transparency are expected to dominate discussions on the second day of a summit of the G8 group of leading industrialised nations.

The issues - dubbed "The Three Ts" - were placed at the top of the agenda by the UK for its presidency of the G8.

Monday's meetings in Northern Ireland focused on the conflict in Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was pressed to agree a joint communique calling for peace and better access for aid.

After talks with his US counterpart Barack Obama, both men acknowledged their differences but said they shared a common desire to stop the bloodshed.

"Of course, our opinions don't coincide. But all of us want to stop the violence and we have agreed to push the parties to the negotiating table," Mr Putin told reporters.

Mr Obama said they had instructed their teams to continue working towards hosting an international conference in Geneva that would aim to find a political solution to end the violence, which the UN says has left more than 93,000 people dead since March 2011.

In an interview with US broadcaster PBS, Mr Obama emphasised that "we're not taking sides in a religious war between Shia and Sunni" but aiming instead for a "stable, non-sectarian, representative government".

His interview coincided with a White House announcement that the US would provide a further $300m (£190m) of humanitarian aid for Syrians - split between Syria itself, where more than 4.25 million people have been displaced, and neighbouring countries dealing with the 1.6 million refugees.

To try to get as much consensus as possible on Syria, UK Prime Minister David Cameron hosted a working dinner on Monday night. The leaders were alone, with no officials present to witness the political showdown.

After the meeting, British officials suggested that an agreement had nearly been reached on a final communique on Syria. However, they said it would take more work on Tuesday to agree the precise language.

The communique is likely to back the launch of Syrian peace negotiations in Geneva, and insist that more humanitarian aid must be allowed in to all parts of Syria.

But the BBC's diplomatic correspondent James Robbins says that what emerges may not be all that ambitious - and even then, it's far from certain that any agreement will change the appalling reality in Syria itself.

'Biggest' trade deal
Another major issue that will be discussed by the Group of Eight - the UK, US, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Canada and Japan - on Tuesday is ensuring tax compliance.

Mr Cameron has committed to making "fighting the scourge of tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance a priority". The UK has said it also wants to ensure anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing measures are effective, and help poorer countries collect tax revenues.

Another priority for the UK's presidency of the G8 is advancing trade.

On Monday, the US and the European Union launched negotiations on what they said could be the "biggest bilateral trade deal in history".

The EU said a deal would add 119bn euros (£100bn; $160bn) to the EU economy and 95bn euros for the US.

European Commission chairman Jose Manuel Barroso said it would create "huge economic benefits". Mr Obama said a deal was achievable and that he would make it a priority.

G8 leaders also want to promote greater transparency about the ownership of companies and land, and also about where money flows.

The UK says removing conflict and corruption, having the presence of property rights and strong institutions are vital for countries to move from poverty to wealth.

The G8 leaders are also scheduled on Tuesday to discuss counter-terrorism and the paying of ransoms to hostage-takers, and will be joined by the leaders of other countries, including Mexico and Ethiopia, for a working lunch before the final news conference in the afternoon.