How far will G8 manage to go?

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The Group of Eight (G8) concluded its 2010 annual summit in Toronto on Saturday. Though the summit reasserted its essential role in international affairs, experts regarded it as a transition that will confine the G8 to a limited agenda.

"With the conclusion of the summit, we see the division of agenda," as development, climate change, security issues are going toward G8 and G20 is focusing more on economic issues," said Erin Fitzgerald, chair of G8 Research Group, in a recent interview with Xinhua.

As its significance is declining, many experts saw that the G8 is no longer the top body on economic issues after going through the global financial crisis.

"I think that the G8 and the G20 have different areas of focus. The G20 deals mainly with finance and economic issues, while the G8 deals with development, security, climate change, energy, and so forth," Fitzgerald said.

Noting that G8's agenda is "much more expansive" than that of G20, she said "even the G20 crisis committee deals primarily with economic issues."

While it is difficult to say where the true "locus of power" is, it is safe to say that for now, the two groups maintain distinct agendas and different areas of expertise, agreed many experts.

David Steven, a fellow at New York University's Center on International Cooperation, said the G8 was dealing with pretty much a "diffused agenda," basically the stuff the G20 isn't going to deal with.

Instead, the latter would deal with all the "important issues" in the financial and sovereign debt crisis, he said.

The global financial crisis necessitated a new enlarged leadership club that displaced the G8, the so-called "club" of the world's wealthiest nations, Alan Alexandroff, a professor at the University of Toronto and a co-director of the G20 research group, says in his paper "Leadership and the Global Governance Agenda: Three Voices" that previews the two summits.

As G8 has no rising powers among its member nations, some emerging countries, such as Brazil, have argued the G8 is not really accountable, nor does it represent significant global leadership.

But people tend to be divided in their views on the two groups.

"Certainly in the U.K. today, you will hear the new Prime Minister David Cameron talking frequently about the G20 with no references to the

G8 at all. I suspect that is true of a number of countries," said Steven.

"Countries that care most about the G8 are the ones that regard the inclusion of other countries as being a threat to their relative influence, like Japan which genuinely do see the G8 as being a big deal. But it's not clear to me how you can continue to have these overlapping groups," he said.

It is now a "transition period" and both institutions would likely co-exist, Alexandroff added. "The G20 was really formed as kind of crisis committee around economics and finance and is now having to transform into potentially a more permanent body, a steering committee kind of structure, and that doesn't happen overnight."

Professor William Christian believes ultimately the G8 will be a "declining force" as China, Brazil and India are all rising economies.

"Economic power is in effect being transferred from the older industrialized countries to the newer and rising countries," said the co-author of "Political Ideologies and the Democratic Ideal."

"It's not that Germany, the United States or Canada are going to disappear as important economic powers, but over the next 10 to 20 years I would think the G8 would have to be replaced by some other groupings because 20 years from now the G8 countries won't be the most significant and powerful economies in the world," he said.

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