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Backgrounder: Key facts about G8 summit
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10:49, July 07, 2008

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The leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) will gather in the northern Japanese resort town of Toyako on July 7-9 for their annual summit.

Climate change will be a key topic at the upcoming summit as well as an expanded meeting with eight other major economies including China and India.

The following are some key facts about the summit.

The G8, which evolved from the G7, consists of the world's eight leading industrialized powers -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and Russia.

In November 1975, in the wake of the worst global economic crisis since World War II, leaders of France, the United States, the then West Germany, Japan, Britain and Italy gathered in Francefor their first economic summit to discuss the global economic situation and coordinate policies to reinvigorate their economies.

The group of the six developed countries welcomed its seventh member in June 1976 when Canada joined the club at the G7 Summit, or the so-called Seven Western Countries Summit Conference, in SanJuan, capital of Puerto Rico.

Since then, G7 members have taken turns to host the summit each year.

In July 1991, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was invited to meet with the G7 leaders after their conference. And Moscow has since continued its participation in the annual "seven plus one" dialogue held following the summit. Russia was finally granted the right to join in discussions on political issues in 1994.

The G7 summit became a G8 event in Denver, the United States, in 1997, when the then Russian President Boris Yeltsin was invited to fully participate in the summit, and the final communique was issued in the name of the eight leaders for the first time.

Despite the name change, Russia's participation has been limited to political issues and the former G7 regime remains intact in terms of economic discussions.

Traditionally, the summit has mainly been focused on economic discussions and the coordination of macroeconomic policies of member countries. However, political issues have been put high on the agenda in recent years.

The first handshake between China and the G8 was the 2003 G8 Evian Summit, attended by Chinese President Hu Jintao. This marked a breakthrough in diplomacy between China and the G8. China also participated in the dialogue at the 2005 London G8 summit.

Hu also attended the outreach sessions of the 2006 and 2007 G8 Summits, held in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Heiligendamm of Germany, respectively.


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