Ottawa plans G8 first, G20 second

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OTTAWA - When it comes to summits, chronological order matters.

The federal government has decided to hold the G8 summit before the G20 - an arrangement that risks upsetting emerging economies, analysts say.
The G8 summit will be held June 25 to 27 in Huntsville, Ont.
And while Prime Minister Stephen Harper has yet to announce official details for the G20 summit expected for around the same time, federal sources say it's safe to assume it will be held immediately after the G8.
The order of the two summits is a simple logistical detail, but the decision to put the G8 first carries political significance.
That's because the chronological order could be interpreted as pecking order. It leaves the impression that the rich established countries of the G8 are setting the agenda for the fledgling G20, a group dominated by emerging economies.
"They don't want to be seen as being relegated to a different tier," said Andrew Cooper, associate director of the Centre for International Governance Innovation, based in Waterloo, Ont.
"They want to see the G20 as a hub, radiating out."
It was unavoidable that some emerging economies would have their feathers ruffled by the order of the summits, said Fen Hampson, director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa.
"This is a good argument, actually, for holding the summit in two different locations in order to reinforce the message that these are two different institutions and political processes."
Global leaders decided at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in September that the G20 would replace the G8 as the leading international body for economic matters. The move formalized a major shift in global politics that has seen emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil challenge established economies such as the United States and Europe for supremacy.
Turning the G20 into a permanent leaders' institution "is the big prize for them," Cooper said.
Canada has been a reluctant convert to the idea that G20 should take the lead. Harper has said Canada's voice could be diluted in such a large group. And Ottawa has been seeking support from Japan and Russia - other G8 countries in a similar predicament - to maintain the role of the G8.
Some emerging countries, however, have been quick to declare the G8 as next to irrelevant.
Brazil's external affairs minister, Celso Amorim, pronounced the G8 "dead" earlier this year - a sentiment reiterated by his press office this week.
"The eight countries have a right to get together," an official spokesman said. "But more important is the G20."
He added that as the host of both summits, it's up to Canada to decide the order. And if the G20 is last, perhaps it means that global powers are saving the best for last.
"Maybe the best part of dinner is dessert," the official said.
Hampson said there is still good reason to "keep both institutions alive." The G20's focus on addressing the global financial crisis is necessary while the G8 "is still a useful forum for discussing general political and security matters, which affect the world's advanced industrial democracies."
The G20 should maintain its singular focus on battling the recession and protectionism, particularly in the U.S., said Hampson.
"Everyone also has an interest in ensuring that the two biggest scorpions in the bottle - China, the world's biggest creditor, and the U.S., which is the world's biggest debtor - manage their love-hate relationship in a way that the rest of us don't get sideswiped, or worse still, stung in the process."
Canada, he said, has its work cut out for it to ensure that both summits are a success.
"The success and longevity of both of these institutions will depend critically on the summits of 2010," said Hampson.
Indeed, while some diplomats argue that the second summit would have its agenda set by the first summit, others spin it another way. They argue that the second summit is more important because it is the culmination of discussions at the previous lesser summits.
A similar debate is taking place on the other side of the world, where Japan and Korea are tussling over whether the next APEC summit or another G20 summit scheduled for November should take precedence.
Japan is the next host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum, while Korea is the G20 host.

Organizations: International Governance Innovation, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University APEC

Geographic location: Ottawa, Canada, United States Huntsville Japan China Brazil Waterloo Pittsburgh India Europe Russia Korea

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