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Belgian 'ethical globalisation' call

Verhofstadt: Also proposes G8 expansion  

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt is calling for more globalisation to fight inequality and narrow the gap between rich and poor nations.

He also says he wants "dialogue" with anti-globalisation activists to stop a repeat of riots which marred the Genoa G8 summit in July.

Verhofstadt, 48, whose country holds the rotating European Union presidency, was speaking in advance of expected protests by anti-capitalist groups at an EU summit in the Belgian towns of Ghent on October 19 and Laeken in December.

He is also proposing expansion of the Group of Eight (G8) industrial powers to include representatives of regional trading groups.

He said the challenge was to give globalisation a conscience, and not to rein it in.

"I would call this ethical globalisation a triangle of... trade, cooperation and the prevention of conflicts," Verhoftsadt said in an open letter published by several Belgian newspapers on Wednesday and quoted by Reuters.

"We need a global, ethical approach to issues such as the environment, working conditions and monetary policy," he said.

Verhofstadt's call for "ethical globalisation" matches the ethical foreign policy championed by his rainbow coalition government, which took strong stands against ex-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and Austria's far right.

In his letter Verhofstadt proposed reforming the Group of Eight industrial powers to bring in representatives of regional trading groups such as the Association of South East Asian Nations, Latin America's Mercosur and the European Union.

"This new G8 would become the forum for binding agreements on global, ethical standards concerning working conditions, intellectual property and good governance," he said.

The current G8 comprises the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Russia.

Anti-capitalist protesters were cautious about his proposals.

Guy Taylor, an activist for the UK group Globalise Resistance, said: "We always welcome comments like this but we are very sceptical.

"We always get a lot of platitudes before demonstrations. This happened before Genoa."

Taylor said his group had long called for a reduction in world debts and the U.S. had proved it could be done when they cancelled some of Pakistan's debt last week in return for military cooperation.

"They sing the corporate tune and that's what we want to change," he said.

"We are not against globalisation per se but it has to be for the good of people and not for profit.

"But if Verhofstadt wants to talk to us we'll talk to him."

In his letter, Verhofstadt applauded the anti-globalisation movement for being a counterweight to "an era where politics has become so sterile, boring and technical."

He criticised world leaders for failing to impose an all-out ban on small arms and create a permanent international criminal court.

But he said globalisation had its benefits -- including a platform to fight climate change and global warming, a halt to speculative foreign currency trading and a tolerance of other cultures.


• Belgian Prime Minister
• Globalise Resistance

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