Leaders from North America, Japan, Western Europe and Russia next week will come to Kananaskis, a small resort town near Calgary, Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies, June 26-27 to participate in the annual G8 Summit.
This G8 Summit is expected to be very different from last year's meeting in Italy that was marred by violent anti-globalization protests. Deliberately, the Canadian hosts picked a remote location, and the national delegations are much smaller. Even the duration of the meeting has been curtailed by a full day to barely more than 30 hours.
According to James Steinberg, a foreign policy specialist at Washington's Brookings Institution, the war on terrorism is likely to be the central issue. He notes President Bush is looking for strong backing from his allies for his campaign to eradicate terrorism.
"This has got to be a summit that for him [Mr. Bush] has a strong element of concord," he said. "It's not a place where he can afford to have strong disagreements about issues because we really need to show that there is momentum behind the common challenge [of fighting terror]."
Mr. Steinberg says Mr. Bush will also use the summit to seek support for his effort to eventually remove from power Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
While most summit participants strongly support Mr. Bush in the war on terror, some privately complain about what they see as American unilateralism on a range of foreign policy issues. Lael Brainerd, an economic advisor to former President Clinton, says recent protectionist trade actions have irritated America's allies. She says U.S. moves to limit steel imports and subsidize agriculture could put at risk the upcoming trade expansion negotiations that were agreed last year at Doha, Qatar.
"We have seen in the United States both the steel safeguard measures, which puts the Bush administration at odds with the European Union and Japan," Ms. Brainerd added. "And a big new funding for the agriculture sector in the United States, which really puts the Bush administration at odds with many of the developing countries we had worked with to improve the negotiating terms in Doha."
For the summit host, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, aid to Africa is the centerpiece of this year's summit. Gene Sperling, a former Clinton administration aide who now promotes education in Africa, says it is unclear whether the G8 will adequately fund the promised assistance efforts for Africa.
"The real question going forward is that each of these countries has expressed interest in development in Africa and education," he pointed out. "What is less clear at this moment is whether they will use the G8 as was used in debt relief at Cologne [in 1999] as a moment to come forward and have a very clear global compact.
Mr. Chretien has invited four African leaders to participate in this year's summit. They will present details of NEPAD, the New Partnership for African Development, a document widely seen as the blueprint for Africa's integration into the global economy. Lael Brainerd applauds Africa's participation in the G8 summit.
"For the leaders from the part of the world that has benefited least from globalization so far, I think it is very appropriate for them to be sitting and talking in partnership with the richest nations of the world," she said.
This will be the 28th of what started out to be annual economic summits of the world's richest countries. James Steinberg says with Russia having been admitted to the group, it is probably time for the G8 to find a way to engage China.
"You can tell there is a desire to find a way to broaden the dialogue to other countries; the fact that the African leaders have been invited," added Mr. Steinberg. "I think most of the leaders would like to find a way to involve China, recognizing that it would have to be a different kind of arrangement perhaps, as was the transitional arrangement with Russia."
Unlike in previous summits, this year's gathering will end with a mere summary of what went on, not the usual formal statement on every topic under discussion.