Harper lands in London ahead of G8, scheduled to meet Queen, British PM

LONDON – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet oil, gas and mining executives Wednesday in London, where he may announce Canada is adopting a G8 initiative that would require companies to disclose any payments they make to foreign governments.

Leaders of the world’s eight richest nations pledged after their 2011 meeting in Deauville, France, to consider new rules that would allow for greater scrutiny of companies’ payments to foreign governments. Critics say such measures are badly needed to expose corruption in countries with an abundance of natural resource riches.

Other countries, such as the United States and Hong Kong, already have similar measures in place.

Transparency is high on the agenda at the coming G8 summit in Northern Ireland. British Prime Minister David Cameron has made tougher transparency measures one of his main goal for the meeting.

But Cameron is reportedly finding it difficult to get the other leaders to agree to new rules that would force companies to reveal who actually owns them. Failure to reach an agreement on the ownership-disclosure rules would likely be seen as an embarrassment to Cameron, the summit’s chair.

However, a deal on the payment disclosures could still be a win for the British prime minister.

Harper’s chief spokesman, Andrew MacDougall, last week told journalists travelling to Europe with the prime minister that Canada and the United Kingdom broadly agree on Cameron’s G8 agenda.

“Obviously, we’re broadly supportive of the agenda that Prime Minister Cameron has laid out,” MacDougall said.

“We certainly have taken our own actions here in our most recent budget on tax issues here in Canada, so we do support more action.”

Beyond talks about the economy and financial issues, the G8 is also expected to focus on international security, particularly the Syrian conflict, Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs and anti-terrorism measures in Africa’s Sahel region.

The G8 summit comes as Canada and the European Union are trying to conclude lengthy negotiations on a free-trade agreement. The Prime Minister’s Office has sought to play down any expectations a deal will be announced while Harper is in Europe this week, saying an agreement at this juncture is unlikely.

Canada is under pressure to conclude a deal before the European Union turns its attention to free-trade negotiations with the United States this summer.

Among the issues believed to be on the negotiating table are financial services, Canadian beef exports, country-of-origin rules for vehicles, procurement limits for provinces and municipalities and drug patent protection.