Texte en français 

June 1999

1. The Cologne G8 “leaders” summit was preceded by a G7 Finance Ministers’ meeting some days before, which drew up a new initiative on debt relief for the poorest countries, but failed to take significant new initiatives to re-regulate financial markets and reform the global financial architecture. The prevailing sentiment amongst Finance Ministers and Central Bankers is that the global financial and economic system has stabilised since the near meltdowns of 1998. The G8 “leaders” summit itself issued a separate “Charter” on the aims and ambitions for lifelong learning but despite this the meeting was more significant for its political than its economic outcome. It was the occasion of a re-establishment of relations between the Russian President and the other G8 leaders, following the ending of the war in Kosovo. The economic reconstruction of the Balkans also loomed large on the agenda. 

2. Trade union leaders from the G8 countries and international organisations had held two hours of consultation with Chancellor Schroeder before the Summit. For the first time in these pre-summit consultations the German government issued a statement following the meeting, which covered some areas of common ground between the trade union side and the Summit host. These documents are being circulated to TUAC affiliates but are also available on the G8 webside http://www.g8cologne.de 

3. The trade union delegation in submitting the written trade union statement to the Cologne Summit had four central objectives: 

- to persuade the governments of the need for more vigorous action to expand demand to raise growth and job creation, particularly in Europe and Japan; 

- to create an opportunity for a greater public and trade union input to the debate on the “international financial market architecture”; 

- to achieve a significant increase in debt relief for the poorest countries; 

- and to build support for core labour standards to be made a central issue for the WTO Ministerial meeting in Seattle.

 4. The Summit outcome was mixed on all of these items: 

Jobs and Growth 

5. The trade union statement warned that there was no room for complacency on the global economic recovery, while financial markets had stabilised for the time being; one third of the world was still in recession with a devastating impact on jobs, living standards and growth. The G7 communiqué called for “balanced macroeconomic policies supportive of domestic demand and investment while preserving price stability” (G7 paragraph 2). For emerging economies it was noted that recovery requires “a supportive international environment characterised by solid aggregate G7 domestic demand and open markets” (G7 paragraph 3). There was little on specifics however for action to support demand in Europe or Asia. 

6. The G8 leaders issued a “Charter on aims and ambitions for lifelong learning”. This appears to add little to the G8 Labour Ministers’ Jobs Conference conclusions of February 1999, which encouraged a “partnership” approach between employers, government, unions on the whole issue. TUAC will be following this up with the OECD and BIAC in the months ahead. 

7. The G8 communiqué recalled for future work between the OECD and UNESCO to raise educational standards (G8 paragraph 18). 

Financial Market Regulation 

8. The G7 statement took a less activist approach to the re-regulation of financial market architecture than the G7 Ministers did at their October 1998 meeting. The communiqué gave official endorsement of the Financial Stability Forum set up at the Bank of International Settlements in Basle. They gave support to efforts to increase transparency and information on financial and monetary policy and said that the private sector would have to shoulder more of the risk for faulty loans. 

9. The idea of a “social code” appears now to have been moved from the World Bank to the United Nations for follow-up which risks resulting in it being buried. Moreover, more radical reform of the IMF as called for by the international trade union movement has been shied away from. The trade union call for an International Commission on International Financial Markets has not been met. In the discussions with Chancellor Schroeder he suggested that the Financial Stability Forum at the BIS should be the appropriate body for dialogue with the trade union movement. This is being followed up jointly by the TUAC, ICFTU and FIET. 

Debt and Development 

10. The Summit’s main economic initiative was to extend the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative as part of a major debt relief initiative. This was in response to the high profile “Jubilee 2000” coalition campaign on debt and the longstanding trade union calls for G8 and OECD governments to write off bilateral debts and allow the international financial institutions to follow suit provided countries respected human rights including trade union rights. 

11. The eventual agreement is forecast to reduce the stock of debt of the poorest countries by some 70 billion Dollars, to the advantage of 36-41 countries. This is a significant increase on past measures if it is fully acted on. In the past debt initiatives have been announced and countries have not profited in practice. Moreover, there is great variation in the amount by which countries will gain. 

Trade and Globalisation 

12. The trade union statement called on the G8 to ensure that core labour standards are on the agenda of any new trade round to be launched at the Seattle WTO Ministerial meeting to begin in November 1999. The G8 called for a “broad-based and ambitious” round of trade negotiations beginning in Seattle (G8 paragraph 10). It recognised the need to improve the transparency of the WTO and “to make it more responsive to civil society”. They also urged to see “a more effective way within the WTO for addressing the trade and environment relationship and promoting sustainable development and social and economic welfare world-wide” (G8 paragraph 9). 

13. In a separate section on core labour standards the G8 leaders stated “...We stress the importance of effective co-operation between the WTO and the ILO on the social dimension of globalisation and trade liberalisation (G8 paragraph 26). This treatment can be taken as a very hesitant step within the G8 to move to a discussion of labour standards within the WTO. Making this a reality in the run-up to Seattle is a top priority for the international trade union movement. 

Food Safety 

14. With regard to health issues related to the contamination of beverages and meats, which occurred recently, President Chirac of France proposed that the G8 should establish a new body to monitor food safety at the international level. This was resisted by some delegations in part because of ongoing disputes in the WTO on food issues. The Summit did however invite the “OECD Working Group on Harmonisation of Regulatory Oversight of Biotechnology and the OECD Task Force for the Safety of Novel Foods and Feeds” to undertake a study of the implications of biotechnology and other aspects of food safety” G8 paragraph 43). The Task Force has subsequently invited TUAC to take part in the next meeting of the Task Force scheduled for September 1999 (see TUAC Evaluation of the Outcome of the Meeting of OECD Science and Technology Ministers, June 1999). 


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