Sat, Jun 12, 2004 - Page 4 News List

G8 could beckon China, India

PROTAGONISTS The leaders of Canada and Italy predicted an expansion of the forum, with the world's two most populous nations the next candidates in line


Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, right, waves his arms in appreciation of Italian cuisine as he walks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi following the group photo at the G8 Summit on Sea Island, Georgia, on Thursday.


The G8 group of nations may soon open its doors to more states, including China and India, to reflect these nations' growing importance in global affairs.

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin floated the idea of a G20 summit in addition to the annual G8 meeting.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi went further and said the leaders were considering inviting China and India into the G8 fold.

"It doesn't make much sense for us to talk about the economy of the future without two countries that are protagonists on the world stage," he said.

Berlusconi said the leaders had discussed the strength and rapid expansion of the Chinese economy, and the fact that it was not constrained by the same labor laws as the West.

"But we said we shouldn't be afraid of China because it is a huge consumer market, and the idea was put forward to call China and India to join the G8, making it the G9 or G10," he said.

The leaders' annual three-day summit began in 1975 as a discussion on the world economy among what was then known as the Group of Six. Canada joined and Russia followed as the eighth full member.

The widening of the group is a common theme of its discussions, but Martin held out the possibility of a G20 meeting as early as next year.

"Canada's idea is gaining a lot of support," he said. "Could it be done at the beginning of next year? I think so. The possibility is improving."

The meetings' agendas have widened considerably to include more geopolitical issues. The focus of this year's summit, which ended yesterday, was the US-led Middle East initiative.

In recent years, the G8 has sought to shed its image of being a club of the wealthiest nations by inviting leaders of poorer countries to attend some sessions.

This year, leaders of some Arab states, including interim Iraqi President Ayad Allawi, attended to discuss policies in the Middle East.

A group representing African states also joined a lunch meeting yesterday to discuss trade, poverty and the fight against AIDS.

The next international summit of world leaders, to be held later this month, is proving to be a security headache. Turkey's Bosphorus Strait, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, will be closed during the NATO summit in Istanbul on June 28 and 29.

US President George W. Bush and nearly 40 other leaders are due to attend the talks. The city was hit by four bombings linked to al-Qaeda last year.

Closures in the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles Strait caused massive congestion last winter.

Also see story:

Schroeder and Bush get all chummy on a balmy Georgia isle

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