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Sunday, October 23, 2016
Christian Aid report from cow town
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¬†George Bush, one of the G8 leaders heading for Canada this week, should feel at home in the ranch close to Calgary where he and his fellow leaders will hold their talks. As soon as they have left town, the largest cowboy festival outside Texas, the Calgary Stampede, will begin. There's no mistaking it, Calgary is most definitely 'cow town'. A place where the streets are lined with pick-up trucks rather than paved with gold. But there is plenty of gold to be found in the surrounding countryside. The prairies of Alberta State, which extend for hundreds of miles east of Calgary, benefit from a healthy share of the US$12.3 billion which the Canadian government pays in subsidies to its farmers each year. So it is fitting that African leaders, who have been invited to join the G8 in their cowboy-country hideaway, will discuss the inequities in trade between Africa and the world's richest countries. George Bush, Tony Blair and Jean Chrťtien, the Canadian Prime Minister, will be urged to sign up to an African-led plan for the continent's recovery. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (known as NEPAD - pronounced kneepad, some cynics say, because African leaders will require one for the position the G8 will force them to adopt) promises reforms in Africa in return for more help from the G8 in the form of aid and debt relief. The plan points towards the enormous subsidies paid to farmers in North America, Europe and Japan as a major cause of Africa's economic woes. The five African leaders travelling to Canada, led by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, are intent on highlighting the need for a more level playing field in world trade. But their broadly liberal economic views are not necessarily popular in Africa itself. Paul Ladd, Christian Aid's senior economist, has been consulting with some of the agency's partner organisations in Africa and believes the African leaders have got it wrong on trade. 'I think we need unfair trade for Africa rather than fairer trade,' says Ladd. 'With a fair and level playing field African producers will lose out because of decades of under investment. Poor countries will be trounced in their own back yard unless they are permitted to protect themselves and use subsidies until they're more competitive'. Whether G8 leaders will be prepared to saddle the pony offered them by their African counterparts, let alone break in the colt of unfair trade many in Africa believe is needed, remains to be seen. Most of the protestors arriving in Calgary for another round of buckaroo with riot police hope they are. Shopkeepers, already boarding-up their premises downtown, are simply keeping their fingers crossed that this is one rodeo that won't culminate in a brawl.
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