By Glenda Kwek, AFP
SYDNEY — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called Thursday for G-20 economies to adopt more ambitious growth targets, urging leaders not to “waste each other’s time” with a talkfest. Abbott told more than 380 business leaders from the grouping attending a two-day G-20 summit in Sydney that the world’s economies were still “in the shadow of the (financial) crisis” and “action, not words” was needed to boost growth. “The G-20 will deliver a three-page communique in plain language because we need to talk not at length about our good intentions, but precisely what we would do to put good intentions into practice,” the Australian leader said. “I made a promise at Davos this year. I said that the G-20 had to be so much more than a talkfest. “Otherwise the leaders of the world’s largest and most representative economies could be accused of wasting each other’s time.” Abbott told media later that Australia was asking G-20 nations to push harder on their growth plans, so they could meet their pledge during a February finance ministers’ meeting to add 2.0 percent to GDP over the next five years. “It seems that the measures in each individual country’s national plan collectively would add little over 1.0 percent to growth over the next five years, and we’re going back to each country asking them to be a little bit more ambitious,” he said. Free Trade Push The prime minister emphasized the need for freer international trade, saying “no country has ever taxed or subsidized its way to prosperity.” His comments were echoed by Trade Minister Andrew Robb, who said the deal struck by 160 members of the World Trade Organization at a Bali summit in December — which streamlines the global flow of goods — needed to be implemented by all countries. “The pursuit of ambitious bilateral, regional and plurilateral trade agreements should also be embraced as they are important building blocks in the global trading system,” he said in a column for The Australian Financial Review. “As Australia’s experience shows, trading, open nations are also prosperous ones.” The WTO said Thursday it was launching a US$30 million support program for developing countries that signed up to the agreement to help them implement the reforms. The push to expand trade was reiterated by the World Food Programme’s executive director, Ertharin Cousin, who said businesses should also look to markets in the world’s most impoverished nations.
“Being poor does not mean there is not an opportunity to create markets,” said Cousin, who will discuss food security issues with business leaders during the summit. “What we are hopeful of is that (the) private sector will recognize that there is an opportunity for them … to support countries that to date have not had significant private sector investment outside of their local market (and) national companies,” she said. “Where you see companies like Unilever, who have seized the opportunities to go and into places like Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania and invest in smallholder farms, it is making a difference in their bottom-line.”