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Monday, July 7, 2008

G8 SUMMIT 2008

Leaders get ready for business

Summit to focus on climate change, rising oil and food prices, African development

Staff writer

TOYAKO, Hokkaido Eight years ago when Japan last hosted the leaders of the eight leading industrialized nations, the general atmosphere was that they were getting together on a nice resort island to enjoy a vacation called the G8 summit.

But as the current pack of leaders arrived Sunday on the eve of this year's summit in the balmy Toyako resort area, the atmosphere is nowhere near as relaxed as that of the Okinawa gathering. Heated debate is expected on global warming, rising oil and food prices, and African development.

On the first day, the G8 leaders will hold discussions with African leaders, hitting on such topics as the surging food prices dealing a heavy blow to the continent, especially the sub-Saharan countries.

The G8 is also considering issuing a statement criticizing Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his widely slammed runoff election victory last month.

But the highlight of the summit will come on Tuesday, when the leaders of Japan, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Russia will talk about climate change.

Japan and the European Union have agreed on a target of slashing global greenhouse gases in half by 2050, but the U.S. has so far refused to set any ambitious goals unless emerging nations, including China and India, agree to join the framework.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is hoping the G8 leaders will come to an agreement on a long-term goal so he can bring a trophy back to Tokyo he can boast about.

On Wednesday, the final day, the G8 leaders and the heads of eight "outreach nations" including China, India and Brazil will talk about climate change. All told, these 16 nations produce about 80 percent of the world's man-made greenhouse gases.

Another hot topic at the summit will be the soaring crude oil and foodstuff prices that in some cases have triggered violence in various parts of the globe.

The leaders are expected to urge more transparency in speculative investment on those commodities.

A total of 22 national leaders, including the heads of 14 outreach nations, will attend the three-day summit, the most participants ever.

Among the G8 leaders, U.S. President George W. Bush is the dean, having attended seven previous summits. Three of the eight leaders — Fukuda, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown — are rookies.

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The Japan Times

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