The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
June 8, 2004

Eradicating Poverty Briefing

International Media Center Savannah, Georgia

11:04 A.M. EDT

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. President Reagan was instrumental in raising the profile of this summit and using it as a forum for leaders to discuss global economic issues. This summit will continue this tradition by highlighting the critical role of raising and sustaining economic growth in order to advance freedom and make the world safer and more prosperous.

Reflecting the importance of these issues, the G8 leaders' discussions will formally begin on Wednesday morning with two full sessions dedicated to global economic issues. The first of these sessions will focus on raising global economic growth and promoting trade. The second session will focus on a set of initiatives to harness the power of the private sector to reduce poverty.

My comments will provide an overview of the first session on global growth, and my colleague will then step in and talk about the second session.

The first formal session between the leaders will focus on the global economic and measures each of their countries are taking to spur and sustain global economic growth, especially through free trade. This will largely be an unscripted, informal discussion.

President Bush, as host of the summit, will frame the discussion by highlighting the positive outlook for the global economic. Although much attention is paid to existing risks and political uncertainties, the global economy is in its best shape in years. Global growth is expected to be faster in 2004 and 2005 than in any two-year period since the late 1970s. A major reason for this recovery is the sharp rebound in the United States, which has grown at about five percent over the last four quarters, faster than in almost 20 years.

Japan appears to have rebounded from a decade of slow growth, and is also in the midst of a strong recovery. Canada and the UK are also on a clear upward path, and Russia continues its strong growth. Many emerging markets that have struggled over the past decade are also finally improving due to fundamental domestic economic reforms and the support of global economy.

The exception to the strong outlook for global growth is the Euro area. Growth in this region recovered slightly in the first quarter, but is expected to continue to lag back in the rest of the G8. The leaders may also discuss other risks to overall strong global growth, such as high oil prices or rising interest rates.

After this general discussion of the global economy, leaders will discuss some of the steps they have already taken and plan to take in the future to sustain and raise global growth. President Bush will discuss the strong recovery in the U.S., most recently evident not only in its robust growth, but also in the creation of about a million jobs in just three months. President Bush will also discuss how this U.S. recovery largely results from aggressive and timely policy actions such as a series of tax cuts and decline in interest rates. For example, without the tax cuts, U.S. employment would be about 1.5 percent higher by the end of the year, and GDP in the U.S. would be about four percent lower by the end of the year.

President Bush will also discuss the need for the U.S. to continue to move forward on these reforms to strengthen the economy and to sustain strong growth and job creation in the future. For example, the President has proposed a budget that will half the deficit within five years by limiting politically popular discretionary spending. The President may also discuss his six-point plan to raise growth through measures such as reforming the tort system and reducing inefficient regulations.

Other leaders will also be encouraged to discuss steps they plan to take to raise and sustain growth in their own economies, even if these steps are politically unpopular. Blue chip forecasts predict that growth in 2004 will be 4.6 percent in the U.S., about 3.1 percent in Japan, and 1.7 percent in the Euro zone.

It's critically important that countries, in addition to the U.S., take steps to stimulate growth and job creation at home, thereby contributing to a broader and sustained global recovery. For example, countries should take steps to reform labor markets, pension systems, health care, regulations and tax systems.

G8 finance ministers have already held several discussions on the importance of making these types of structural reforms through their Agenda for Growth. In particular, an important step for all countries in the G8, as well as in the rest of the world, is to progress on the ongoing negotiations in the WTO Doha development agenda.

The stakes are high, especially in the developing world. The World Bank estimates that the elimination of trade barriers could result in a gain of over $500 billion for developing countries. This is a great opportunity. A global reduction in barriers to trade can help deepen, broaden and extend the current global economic expansion.

More specifically, the leaders will hopefully agree to complete negotiating frameworks for agriculture, goods and services by July in order to move negotiations forward through the Doha development agenda. The G8 has a special responsibility to lead in pressing for ambitious global trade liberalization.

Finally, a key theme throughout this discussion will be that the strong global economy presents a strategic economic opportunity to tackle difficult reforms, reforms ranging from reducing budget deficits to improving labor markets, to removing barriers to trade. Although many of these reforms are politically difficult, they are critically important to broaden the current economic expansion, to improve job creation, and to raise prosperity around the world. The strong global economy presents a strategic economic op that should not be squandered.

And with that, I will turn to my colleague to discuss some of the topics in the second session on the global economy.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. My colleague mentioned that a main theme of the economic discussion would be enabling the private sector to help poor people prosper. I think everyone here knows certainly that we believe that the private sector is kind of the main engine of economic growth and job creation and of poverty reduction, and that there needs to be more integration of that idea into a development assistant efforts, generally, bilaterally, and through the international financial institutions and multilateral development banks.

So the leaders are going to be discussing several ideas, initiatives to promote the private sector in development. One of the first is remittances. The flow of remittances from workers in the developed world to developing countries is growing rapidly; it's now totally -- the reported flows are nearly $100 billion a year. We think that given the way in which these remittances are transferred, there's a lot of under-reporting, and you might actually have -- it's an estimate, but as much as $150 billion a year flowing from the developed world to the developing world. This is a size of flows that dwarfs official development assistance. It's larger than other private sector investment. In about 36 countries, it's larger than the two put together, the official development assistance and private sector investment. So it's a significant source of funding for countries, if ways can be found to facilitate it and to improve the development impact of those remittances, and there are a lot of ideas that will be discussed as to how the G8 countries might be able to help that happen.

The United States, some time ago, at the outset of the Bush administration, had began a remittances initiative with Mexico, in what we called our Partnership for Prosperity. And there were a number of elements to that. But the remittances initiative was one of the most successful. We managed, by promoting competition and increasing awareness to the remitters of options for transmitting their money to reduce the cost of remittance flows from the United States to Mexico by about 50 percent in a short period of time. And one of the ideas that we've had, in working with the G8 and preparing for the summit, is that that might be replicable in other countries, in flows to -- where they have particularly large remittance flows, and might be replicable by the United States in other instances.

So there are lots of ways you can do that. There are financial literacy programs that help the remitters become more aware of options. You can promote competition among service providers. You can even -- and this is something we did with Mexico -- you can make changes in the payment system. The Atlanta Fed created a small payments automated clearinghouse for payments between the United States and Mexico, that actually was very helpful, again, in facilitating competition and in reducing the cost of flows to Mexico. That's not going to be replicable in -- among all of the G8 and their remittance partner countries, but it's an example of the kinds of ideas that will be being discussed.

In addition, there's going to be an emphasis on the steps that the G8 can take to help countries improve the business climate for entrepreneurs and investors. Businesses, and the private sector, can only thrive if countries provide good regulatory and legal frameworks, and if they lower the barriers to starting and operating companies. I mean, it can take three, four months in some developing countries to start a small business, and that's the time it has to be brought down if you're actually going to improve the ability of these countries to generate small businesses and economic growth.

So there are going to be discussions on ways to help the MDBs focus -- the multilateral development banks -- focus on working with countries to remove impediments to the business environment. As an example, in the U.S., we've been very impressed with the way the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the EBRD, has introduced a successful small business program. It combines technical assistance with actual funding with lending programs, focused on small business, that's resulted in 500,000 loans to small and medium-size enterprises in their area of responsibility over the last decade. And again, we think that's the sort of result that can be replicated by the G8 as members of the other multilateral development banks, emphasizing that that's something we'd like them to focus on, as well, their work with small and medium-size enterprises.

There's also going to be discussion of the development of local financial markets in the developing countries, as fundamental to promoting a vibrant private sector. We'll be encouraging the G8 to work with the MDBs to facilitate the establishment of the fundamental components of a mortgage market. I think our local financial markets' ideas are focusing on the housing area and the water area -- so helping countries develop the fundamentals of a mortgage finance market. That includes work with them on property rights, on title transfer, legal and regulatory frameworks that can actually create the possibility of that kind of financial market. It can involve providing opportunities for recipients of remittance inflows, going back to the remittance initiative, to use that income in domestic financial markets, including for building and improving their houses.

And then, as well, there will be an emphasis on local, sort of sub-sovereign bond markets, to provide water and sanitation, all of this as part of seeking to achieve the goals of -- the development goals of the millennium declaration that the international community as a whole has been working towards and is attempting to achieve by 2015.

Finally, we expect that there will be a discussion of opportunities to promote micro-finance. Micro-finance programs, I think everybody here knows, will have provided small amounts of capital -- they loans of a few hundred dollars to entrepreneurs. It's done this for many years. It particular benefits women. Often it's the first step -- providing this micro-finance is the first step towards building small and medium-sized enterprises. These micro-enterprises can grow into larger enterprises, developing a -- sort of a virtuous circle.

So the G8 will be working with the World Bank base, the so-called Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, the CGAP, to launch a global market-based micro-finance initiative that can involve developing a code of conduct to identify key principles for micro-finance lending, encouraging the establishment of micro-finance investment funds, and helping developing countries improve their laws for micro-finance so it can become more widely available.

So there are a number of specific areas to promote the private sector as an influence, indeed, as the key influence on developing countries that the G8 leaders will be discussing during that particular session of their meetings.

And then we would be happy to take any questions you have in the economic area.

Q What about petrol. Did you mention nothing about the risk that could represent for the economic world about the increase in price? Do you think tomorrow they will be able to discuss about that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. That's one of the issues which could be raised in the first session which discusses the global economy and potential risks to the global economy. At this point, we don't know for sure if a leader will raise it or exactly how the discussion will play out, but it's certainly a topic which could come up.

I can give you, however, the U.S. administration's view on the risks of higher oil prices. The administration has said that we believe that affordable and adequate energy supplies are critically important to ensure continued prosperity in the global economy. We also welcome the announcement by OPEC and oil producers to increase oil supply in the near future, and we look forward to them fulfilling that commitment and increasing production in the near future.

Q Will there be talk of measures on the demand side to deal with the oil issue, or will it be mostly looking at supply?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, it's hard to speculate exactly how this conversation will go, because it's meant to be unscripted and to have the leaders discuss their own concerns. It's likely, as they discuss the increase in oil prices, that demand will come up, because there are many analysts who do feel that the major reason for the increase in oil prices is increased demand, largely from fast global growth -- not only in the G8 economies, but also in China. So that's a topic which might come up in the discussion.

Q Global growth is obviously a big factor, but one way without curbing growth that could be addressed is through conservation measures. Do you think that may end up being one of the proposals that they make, or --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's certainly possible that the leaders will discuss ways to ensure an adequate energy supply in the future is to improve conservation methods and improve access to alternate energy sources. So, again, it's hard to speculate exactly how the conversation will go, but that's certainly a way the conversation could lead.

Q Will there be any discussion on emerging markets, and specifically on Argentina, the debt crisis, as the G7 was instrumental in bringing Argentina back to the negotiating table with private creditors? And also, I would like to have an assessment of the -- you of the administration, of the latest proposals from Argentina on that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, as my colleague has been emphasizing, since the economic discussion is unscripted, anyone could raise anything. It's not on the agenda for there to be a discussion of Argentina or of emerging market issues.

As far as the U.S. position on the recent Argentine proposal, we do think that it is very important for Argentina to work with its creditors in order to have a successful debt restructuring. For a variety of reasons, a debt-restructuring in which there has been a high participation rate so that Argentina ends up with a sustainable debt structure following the restructuring is something that we think is important for their ability access capital markets in the future, and that's important for their medium- and longer-term growth. So it's very important that the operation be successful. It's also important that Argentina comply with the commitments that it has made to the international community and to the IMF in its IMF program, and so executing this debt restructuring needs to be in line with those commitments, and we will be looking at how all those fit together as the process proceeds.

Q How much leverage Russia will have in these negotiations with its huge oil resources? Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, these will not again be negotiations, it will be a discussion of the global economy and risks to the global economy. And in that role, Russia will have a very important viewpoint to offer as one of the major oil producers in the Group of Eight. So other countries will look forward to hearing comments from Russia and their viewpoints on oil supplies and the future of oil prices.

Q Yes, on remittances, I would like to know, a couple of weeks ago when the report of the IDB came out of remittances for Latin America, there was a proposal by Congressman Tom Tancredo to tax the remittances maybe five percent. How do you see that? Do you see that happening at all?

And my second question, also remittances, I don't understand quite well how you intend to direct what people do with remittances, for example, promoting that they invest in building houses because, I mean, they can do whatever they want with it, right?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. That's absolutely true, and there -- certainly, from our point of view, we would not be promoting or proposing or supporting ideas that would be coercive about the use of the remittances. What we've been trying -- and that goes as well, the tax idea is not one that I think has broad support in the international community.

What we have been promoting and what we think has worked well in the Mexican example, and I think could well in the future is giving people options by increasing the options by investment at the receiving end. In part, that can be done by bringing these remittance flows into the formal financial sector. If you're receiving the remittance at a bank and the bank can say you can keep this on deposit at the bank as opposed to having to walk away with the cash and put it in a coffee can, or -- you know, there are different types of, you know, obviously some, perhaps even a majority of any particular remittance flow will need to be spent.

But for the excess that doesn't immediately need to be spent, if we had been creative in thinking of sort of financial instrument options, not grand ideas, but options for the recipients to invest that money and even for short periods of time, that can, as a cumulative matter, have a very significant effect.

So our emphasis, again, on improving the development impact is by creating more options for people as opposed to coercive direction of those flows into one purpose or another.

Q Could I ask you about this first session on the macro- economy? How long will that first session go on? And I gather from your first remark that they go around the table, each leader giving his perspective of his own country and commitments. Will the European Union also participate in that so you really get nine people around the table? And how much time, then, is left for discussion?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I believe there is about an hour and a half slated for this discussion on the global economy, and that session will also include discussion of trade as well as the global economy. It will not be as formal as you laid out.

President Bush, as the chair of this summit, will start off the discussion and frame the discussion in the way in which I laid out. Tentatively, he will probably then turn to Prime Minister Koizumi from Japan to lead off the more informal comments. He will probably, before he hands off the comments to the Prime Minister, will probably congratulate Japan on their impressive recovery and their recent turnaround in the Japanese economy. After that, there is no formal plan.

So each of the European leaders and other leaders will have a chance to chime in if they so choose, but it will not be moving around the table in a specific order by any stretch.

And, actually, you said there will be nine people there; I believe there will be actually 10. It's the G8 plus a representative from the EC, plus a representative from Ireland as chair. So there will actually be 10 people around the table, which will not leave an awful lot of time for individual comments, but they do hope everyone will participate in this very informal discussion.

Q The positions of the leaders are quite far apart on the reduction of the debt of Iraq. I mean, how far are we from a consensus, and could you explain the U.S. position on that, if you could give a percentage of what you are asking in terms of debt reduction?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Obviously, discussions about Iraq debt and the treatment of Iraq debt are ongoing. Many of you are probably aware that the IMF has completed a detailed debt sustainability analysis for the -- for Iraq, and has distributed that to the Paris Club. It's been distributed to all the members of the Paris Club. And the -- each of the Paris Club members, individually, is in the process of looking that over. It's quite detailed.

Our view is that -- I think that analysis supports the position that -- it supports strongly the position that we have been taking for sometime, that the vast majority of Iraq's debt needs to be reduced. I mean, simply as a financial matter, if you look at what the reconstruction obligations are, if you look at the size of the debt load, if you look at any sort of reasonable GDP projections -- and the IMF has done all of this in this document that's been distributed to the Paris Club -- it just shows that the numbers add up to the need for the vast majority of the debt to be reduced, in order for Iraq's situation to be sustainable, and we continue to hold that position.

There will be discussions with the other members of the Paris Club, with non-Paris Club members about how to proceed then to resolve the debt. And I think that -- I just think that the weight of analysis is going to be on supporting the need for a vast majority of the debt to be reduced.

Q Just following up, I wanted to check: Is the Iraq debt actually going to be discussed as part of the -- is there a plan for that to be discussed at the G8? Also, in your plan for helping developing countries, is it only discussions of how private enterprise can help developing countries, or are you also talking about cutting debt in Africa?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: When you have the G8 leaders together, someone may raise the issue of Iraqi debt. It is not on the agenda for that to be a discussion item or for there to be some resolution of it. There may be a discussion of it. They are the leaders of the world and they can do what they want.

As for debt relief for poorer countries, countries in Africa or other poor countries, the finance ministries of the G7 and G8 have had ongoing discussions about the HIPC Initiative. I think most of you in the room are probably aware that the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative would expire by the end of the year, and there have been a number of options that have been discussed that are preliminary -- in preliminary ways, a number of ideas as to how to further this initiative given where it stands now. None of those have been resolved. I think we will continue discussing them. It's certainly possible, too, that that is a topic of discussion. But it is not a specifically identified agenda item for the meeting.

Q You said before that President Bush is going to congratulate the Japanese because of the strength of his growth. What is he going to say to the European Union? Do you see that the European economy is a threat for the global growth, and what do you think they have to do more?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, it's hard to predict exactly what he will say, but there is a chance he may mention that. As I said in my initial comments, growth next year in the -- this year in the U.S. is expected to be about 4.6 percent, and the Euro zone is probably going to be less than 2 percent. And this may be a way to highlight that. It is important for Europe to undertake some difficult structural reforms in order to raise growth so it can contribute its share to growth in the global economic, going forward.

And the President is likely to discuss again the need to take advantage of the strong global environment and strong global growth to actually move forward on some of these politically difficult reforms.

In particular, he will raise this issue that this really is an important strategic economic opportunity. Countries around the world, including the U.S., as well as Europe, should take advantage of strong global growth to tackle these difficult reforms, and it's particular important for Europe because growth is lagging, to undertake these reforms now to raise growth, going forward.

Q One of the things that helped the United States grow faster is the huge debt, huge deficit. Do you think the European Union will have to follow this same example, and increase the deficit, as you did?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't think that will be one of the President's specific recommendations. (Laughter.)

Q On this share of remittances, how do you think the discussion will result? I mean, do you think there will be some kind of concrete program that will come up at this summit? And also, how long will be the discussion on issues of development and policy?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: With respect to the first question, I do think so. There's been a lot of work among the finance ministers preparing the summit in analyzing specific steps that each country can take to facilitate remittance flows to its partners, and so I think -- I think a likely outcome is that each of the G8 countries will identify and announce steps that they can take and are taking to promote this remittance initiative, and that those will be quite concrete. I mean, the remittances area is something that, while rather technical, the benefits can be significant. I think that the G8 countries have become convinced of the potential benefits.

And the steps that one can take are very discrete and direct and measurable, the sorts of things that you can make a difference on. So I do think that that's going to result in something definite coming out of the summit.

As far as the amount of time that will be devoted to these development issues, I think there's about an hour and a half for this particular entrepreneurship to help eradicate poverty session, and then there will also be, on Thursday, discussions of development issues.

Q How much emphasis do you think the President needs to put in convincing his G8 contemporaries that the pace of U.S. growth is sustainable, meaning as we enter sort of a rising interest rate environment and rising commodity price environment, that we aren't risking sort of a repeat of 10 years ago, where across the globe the interest rate response had to be abrupt, according to some? With U.S. rates so low, what will the President need to do to convince the G8 that this pace is sustainable and that there won't be disruptions?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, this is one topic we're not sure will come up in the discussions. But if it does, the administration believes that growth in the U.S. undoubtedly will slow next year. Growth is on a pace in the U.S. to grow at a bout 4.5 percent this year, roughly, probably slow down to roughly 3.5 percent next year. But that's a natural adjustment as we close the output gap, and that's a rate that we could grow close to over a longer amount of time.

And we feel that the U.S. economy is well-positioned to handle an increase in interest rates. The Federal Reserve Board has done a very good job of preparing the markets and preparing investors for a gradual increase in interest rates. And the U.S. economy is currently so strong that it should be able to handle slightly higher interest rates and still maintain a very strong rate of growth, albeit slightly slower than this year.

Q Perhaps I missed this while I was out of the room, but you just said that there's a chance that the President might suggest that it's important that the Europeans undertake some structural reforms. Could you please reiterate, if you've already said before, what those reforms might consist of?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This discussion will build on an extensive discussion that's been held by finance ministers as part of what they call the agenda for growth. And this agenda for growth focuses on the need for all countries, not just Europe, but definitely including the Euro zone, to undertake structural reforms, to increase productivity, and raise long-term growth rates in their economies.

And some of the specific steps that are discussed as part of this agenda for growth are reforming labor markets to make labor markets more efficient; reduce rigidities in labor markets; in particular, make it easier for firms to hire and fire. Another set of discussions focuses on pension reform and ensuring that pensions are viable over the longer-term, and funded over the longer-term, especially in many G8 countries, as the population is aging and the fiscal pressures to finance existing pensions are increasing.

Another set of discussions will be on health care reform, on ensuring affordable and reliable health care service in different countries. Another set of discussions will be on reducing regulations, and -- or reducing inefficient regulations, I should say. So, making sure that the regulatory burden is necessary and efficient. And that's also something that President Bush is working on in the United States.

Another set of reforms which could be discussed is efficient tax systems; ensuring tax rates are levied in an efficient way. And part of that may be reducing budget deficits, also. So that's just a sample of the whole host of issues which could come up.

Q As you may well know, that some of the emerging economies right now are playing a bigger and stronger role in the global economy. How is the G8, in this session, going to address this issue, embrace this new phenomenon? And also, how would you invite input from those economies, such as the example of China? Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Obviously, the role of the emerging markets in the global economy is something that is of great significance, as you say. In the finance ministries, it's a topic that we have been sensitive to for some time. When the finance ministers of the G7 and G8 -- when the deputies of the finance ministers of the G7 and G8 meet, they frequently invite the Chinese finance deputy to meet with them, as a way of integrating the Chinese into this global economic discussion and making sure that the G7 are aware of developments in China and have the opportunity for exchange.

We are, in the G8 process as a whole, I think everyone is always thinking of ways to try to improve those opportunities for integration and involvement of increasingly important countries to the world economy, and that will be sort of ongoing, reflecting on how to achieve that. Up to now, that's how it's been done.

Thank you very much. And also, we will be available for additional questions or briefings through the U.S. delegation in the IMC down on the first floor.

END 11:40 A.M. EDT

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