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G8 Grows With a Little Help From Its Friends

While the 34th G8 Summit wrapped up today amid the usual mix of congratulation and disappointment that follows the participating nations' lukewarm commitments to issues like global warming, there was
one particular aspect of the July 9 meeting that was altogether unprecedented.

The Group of 8 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) was joined by "emerging economies" China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa as well as other leading nations Australia, South Korea, and Indonesia.

Is the G8 soon to expand? It wouldn't be the first time — and the American presidency has had more to do with the past additions than you may have guessed.

The initial summit, held in Rambouillet, France in 1975, was attended only by France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S. Since then Canada and Russia have joined the table, and in both cases it was U.S. presidents who initiated their path to inclusion: a year after the Rambouillet Summit, President Gerald R. Ford included Canada in his plansfor the second economic conference in Puerto Rico, and in an exchange with reporters shortly after the 1997 summit in which Russia officially turned the G7 into a G8, President Bill Clinton spoke of the pledge he'd made to President Boris Yeltsin the year before, ensuring Russia he would do his best to help them gain admittance.

So if the G8 is indeed to become a G9 (or beyond) sometime in the future, look out for support from a U.S. president as a potential indicator of the next addition.