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World Leaders Discuss Economic Future at G8 Summit - 2004-06-09

The Group of Eight summit in Sea Island, Georgia is focusing on global economic issues. The leaders are feeling good about growth prospects and the recent decline in oil prices.

Ten leaders participated in the early session that began with a survey of the global economy. The European Commission president and the current chairman of the European Union, the Irish prime minister, joined the Group of Eight leaders from Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Russia, Japan, Canada and the United States.

President Bush, the summit host, has made the discussion as informal as possible. Only the leaders are taking part and the first session is limited to economics and trade.

There is little doubt that the improving global economy is being emphasized by the summit participants.

"When the deputies and finance ministers were preparing for this summit [two weeks ago] they were feeling pretty good about the world economy," said Nancy Roman, vice president of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "I mean you have worldwide growth at 4.3 percent. That is as high as it has been in 15 years."

But the subject of oil and its price trend looms largest over the economic discussions.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is cautiously optimistic that prices may decline further. He says that seven to $10 [a barrel] in the high price of oil is a risk premium reflecting market fears of terrorist attacks in the Middle East. Participants are encouraged that oil prices have fallen back significantly from the record high of $42 a barrel touched only a week ago.