Next week, G8 leaders meet in L'Aquila, Italy, with a full agenda, including the global economic crisis, Iran, North Korea, piracy, and aid to the developing world.
Various humanitarian groups have called on the G8 to fulfill promises made to Africa at the 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.
John Kirton, director of the Toronto-based G8 Research Group, spoke from Rome, and gave VOA a preview of what to expect at the summit.
"I think there's going to be substantial advances across a very broad array of fronts, but really with no one central focus or big breakthrough in sight," he says.
Economic crisis on the agenda
"Certainly, the Italians are going to try and advance their desire for a new global code to install a rule of law for moral finance, as they call it. But very few of their partners really share the passion for that," he says.
There's growing concern the crisis might trigger widespread trade protectionism.
"What could be done usefully is…fighting the protectionism that's now broken out with China following the United States into 'buy national' programs that really do threaten to unleash a protectionist spiral that we all remember so badly from the 1930s," he says.
This includes both the traditional trade protectionism and new forms of financial and investment protectionism.
"It was really the United States with the Buy America Act that moved into comprehensive protectionism. And very recently, we've now seen the People's Republic of China adopt a similar measure of buy Chinese across their entire economy," he says.
The European Union, the world's largest economy, could follow suit.
Some movement in climate change
"I think the summit will importantly advance the fundamental new principle, that as the world moves to create a climate control regime beyond the Kyoto Protocol, that all of the major carbon producing powers must commit to controlling their carbon," he says.
Kirton says China, not the United States, is now the "world's number one greenhouse gas emitter."
Will Gleneagles promises be fulfilled?
Kirton sees a chance of that happening, "saying, "The Italians have from the start given development an important place at their summit. Understandably, as they really are the G8's frontline state with Africa right next door," he says.
At Gleneagles, G8 leaders promised to double overall aid to the developing world by 2010, Africa in particular.
"But also to focus on the particular problem of food security, which is something…which the Italians feel they have great expertise at home. So I think we'll see some moves toward…a global grains reserve to…dampen the food crisis we saw at this time last year and which may be coming back," he says.
He says there may be an effort to boost aid levels to agriculture and "also to ignite a new green revolution" in Africa using new farming technologies.
Kirton says Iran and North Korea will be high on the agenda, especially since both are vying to become full-fledged nuclear powers. He says to also look for G8 action on a unified policy on how to deal with piracy, which has been a major problem off the Somali and Kenyan coasts.
The G8 Research group has issued a new publication featuring articles by a number of world leaders. It can be found at www.g8.utoronto.ca.