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The G8 Summit Process:
Does Politics Trump Economics?

March 8, 2004
Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Washington DC

Hosted by the G8DC Group
and the Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies
at Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC

Robert C. Fauver, Fauver Associates, and former G7/8 Sherpa
Patrick Cirillo, Deputy Division Chief, International Monetary Fund
Charles Doran, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of International Relations and Director of the Center of Canadian Studies, Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies

by Denisse Rudich

The G8 Summit’s focus has grown exponentially since its inception in 1975 with the Rambouillet Summit. From tackling economic and finance-based matters to addressing issues such as regional security, democratic governance and social welfare concerns, the G8 increasingly takes on a more political agenda. This leads to the question of the primacy of politics over economics, or vice versa, in the G8 Summit process.

The Washington-based G8DC Group and the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at John Hopkins University hosted the event, “The G8 Summits Process: Does Politics Trump Economics?” at John Hopkins University on March 8, 2004, to consider this matter. The event proved a great success, with over 35 audience members from the academic sector, international organizations, think tanks, civil society, and the private sector. Two distinguished speakers, Robert C. Fauver, President of Fauver Associates LLC, and Patrick Cirillo, Deputy Division Chief at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), discussed their experiences working at G8 summits and other international meetings, and weighed the importance of economics and politics in this intricate process. Professor Charles Doran, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of International Relations and Director of the Center of Canadian Studies, welcomed the participants and chaired the event.

Fauver provided a historical perspective of the G8 Summit Process. He highlighted its importance in providing a political “kick” to economically sound policies, such as the need for the floating exchange rates we have today. Fauver stressed that before the age of instant communication and transportation, these summits provided leaders with a unique opportunity to meet and talk informally, allowing them to build a rapport amongst themselves. Today, it is difficult to remember the value added of these meetings.

Politics increasingly became an important aspect of the Summit process across time. For example, the politics of the day pushed first Italy, then Canada, and Russia to gain membership of the G8. It is evident that Russia has no place on the table in economic terms. In that sense, politics has prevailed over economics.

Fauver further provided a unique insight into the varied focus that American presidents have placed on the Summit process. For example, President Jimmy Carter enjoyed personally drafting the economic communiqués. President Ronald Reagan loved people and saw this as an opportunity to share ideas with the leaders of the free world and President Bill Clinton believed that he could “work with these people.” President George Bush Sr., however, did not enjoy the Summit process, often finding it uninteresting and just plain boring. President George Bush Jr., Fauver related, shares a similar attitude to his father’s. Fauver suggested that were this not an election year, the G8 Summit would hold a very low priority for the current Bush administration. As it is, the G8 Summit will be held in Sea Island, Georgia, on June 8 to 10, 2004. It will focus on three themes: freedom, security, and prosperity.

Patrick Cirillo gave an overview of the development of G7 finance ministers’ communiqués, concluding that indeed, politics sometimes does trump over economics.

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