Death Knell Tolls For G8, New Body Seen Forming
Saturday, 11 July 2009

World leaders signalled the demise of the Group of Eight wealthy nation club on Friday, saying only a forum that included the major developing economies could legitimately take important global decisions.

The G8 is made up of wealthy northern hemisphere countries, but problems such as global warming and the economic crisis have revealed its limitations.

"One thing that is absolutely true is that for us to think we can somehow deal with some of these global challenges in the absence of major powers like China, India and Brazil seems to be wrongheaded," U.S. President Barack Obama told reporters.

The G8, made up of the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Russia and Canada, has increasingly embraced other countries in recent years.

During its annual summit in central Italy this week it met with the leaders of China, India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Egypt, spontaneously forming the so-called G14.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he thought this new grouping would become the dominant international talking shop.

"As far as I am concerned the G14 is the format that in the future will have the best possibility to take the most important decisions on the world economy, and not just that," he said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also backed the G14, which represents roughly 80 percent of the global economy.

"We will put the G14 in place in 2011 when France chairs the G8," he told reporters.


Canada, which takes the G8 chair next year, said it would try to create a broader forum, but added that it wanted to see the wealthy nation club survive -- a hope echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"There are issues, for which the G8 is the appropriate body in our view," she said.

Also jostling for prominence on the world stage is the much broader G20, which came to the fore last year to tackle the financial crisis.

Merkel said she thought this would be a crucial body in the future and expected a decision within the next year.

But Berlusconi said it was too unwieldy.

"When more than 15 people sit around a table you have a problem with discussions and debate. There isn't the possibility for direct contact or to interrupt, so it becomes formal and static," he said.

The wealthy nations' club was created by France in 1975, involving at that stage just six countries, and was seen as a chance for leaders to hold informal fireside chats.

It subsequently evolved into the G7 then the G8, becoming a massive logistical operation in the process drawing thousands of officials, aides and journalists. Other major international summits have also sprung up to involve more countries.

"We are in a transition period," Obama said on Friday. "The one thing I will be looking forward to are fewer summit meetings ... I think there is a possibility to streamline them and make them more effective."


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