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The G8 (Group of Eight) is an organization composed of eight countries: the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada, and Russia. Formed in 1975, the informal grouping of advanced economies today represents approximately 14 percent of the world population, 60 percent of Gross World Product, and two-thirds of international trade.

The G8 holds annual summits to discuss matters of economic and political significance. Lacking a permanent secretariat or administrative structure, the G8 is not a formal international organization and cannot make binding resolutions. Still, the summits provide important opportunities for global leaders to discuss challenging international issues and potential solutions. Additionally, the summits set priorities, provide guidance, and define new issues for the international community, shaping future actions by other governments and international organizations.

Similar to the G8, the G20 (Group of Twenty) is an informal group of 19 countries, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. The G20 was founded in 1999 by the G7 (now G8) finance ministers. Each fall, the finance ministers and central bank governors of member countries would gather for a finance ministerial meeting to discuss and promote issues related to international financial stability. Seeking to coordinate a response to the growing global financial crisis in late 2008, U.S. President George W. Bush invited the G20 heads of state to Washington, DC, creating the first G20 summit. The G20 leaders decided to meet again and, at the 2009 Pittsburgh summit, agreed to supplant the G8 as the primary forum for discussion of international economic coordination. The G20 now meets annually, with the next summit to be held in June 2012 in Los Cabos, Mexico.

Quick Facts


1975, Rambouillet, France

Original Members

France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, and the United States

Later Members

  • Canada joined at the 1976 summit in San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA.
  • Russia joined at the 1998 summit in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
  • The European Union—previously the European Economic Community—has been formally associated with the organization since 1977.


  • Fourteen percent of the world’s population
  • Sixty percent of Gross World Product
  • Two-thirds of all international trade

Purpose & Objectives


  • Serve as an international forum on issues of the global economy, development, peace and security, the environment, and climate change
  • Facilitate the creation of a collective framework for regulating globalization
  • Recognize cooperative actions that may influence and direct issues of concern to member states


  • Identify potential international partnerships and work with current G8 partners to advance common interests
  • Continue to redefine the role of the G8 after the 2009 summit in Pittsburgh, which established the G20 as the primary international economic forum


  • The G8 lacks a legal personality, permanent secretariat, or offices for members. It is not an international institution and does not take binding measures.
  • The organization conducts its work primarily via an annual summit, which is attended by the member countries’ heads of state.
  • Ministerial-level meetings are conducted throughout the year in order to continue work on initiatives agreed upon at previous summits and to prepare for the next summit. These meetings are attended by finance ministers, foreign ministers, environment ministers, and other government officials of the member countries.
  • The host country arranges several preliminary meetings prior to the summit.  Personal representatives for G8 leaders, known as Sherpas, attend these meetings to discuss potential agenda items. Sherpas—often high-ranking government officials such as ambassadors, deputy finance ministers, or advisors to heads of state—communicate and coordinate directly with each other throughout the year. In addition to helping shape the summit agenda, Sherpas conduct preliminary discussions on various issues to facilitate their leaders’ ability to reach final declarations during the summit, which typically last for only a couple of days.
  • The G8 is chaired on a rotational basis—from January 1st through December 31st of a given year—by each of its members in the following order: France, United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy, and Canada. The European Union participates in the G8 as an observer and may not host or chair; rather, it is represented at the Summit by the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission.
  • The United States is the 2012 chair of the G8.

G8 Summits

G8 Summits:

  • The G8 Summit provides the opportunity for a direct, informal discussion among leaders on key issues of the international agenda. Throughout the summit, countries are represented by heads of state, foreign ministers, and finance ministers. The summit results in the adoption of a political statement, possibly accompanied by additional statements, action plans, and other documents.
  • The country that has the presidency organizes and hosts the Summit. The host country prepares for the Summit by convening meetings of ministers, senior civil servants, and experts. The presidency is also responsible for communication on behalf of the G8 and for establishing connections with non-G8 countries, international organizations, NGOs, and civil society in general.
  • Typically, summit agendas highlight a central global issue of special concern to the host nation.
  • The 2011 G8 Summit took place in Deauville, France

2012 G8 Summit in the United States:


As chair, the United States is responsible for hosting the 2012 summit. This year’s G8 summit will be held on May 19-20, 2012 at Camp David in Frederick County, Maryland.

A formal 2012 summit agenda has not been made public. The details of the agenda will be shaped closer to the meeting.

Potential agenda items / issues for discussion:

  • Enhancing food security and increasing agricultural productivity
  • The Eurozone crisis
  • Programs to reduce national debts while ensuring austerity measures do not hinder economic growth
  • Economic stabilization and needed structural reforms
  • Strengthening the financial system and fostering financial inclusion
  • Generating strong, sustainable, and balanced growth to increase employment opportunities, especially amongst the youth populations
  • Volatility in the international commodity markets