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America’s 2004 G8 Summit: When and Where?

John Kirton, G8 Research Group, July 4, 2003

Table: Identification of Subsequent Summits in G7/8 Communiqués

When and where will the United States host the 2004 G8 Summit? As of July 4, 2003, with President George W. Bush preparing to fly to Africa, the answers to both questions were officially and publicly unknown. They were also quite unclear. The rumour mill, adjusted for reliability, and the sparse public reporting, suggest the following.

Just after the conclusion of the 2002 Kananaksis Summit, an American official on the sherpa team had suggested that the U.S. was contemplating a pre-prepared location. This remark was interpreted as meaning a site such as Camp David, where all the security and other logistics were already in place to the hghest degree. In the months leading up to the 2003 Evian Summit, the word from the White House team was that all sherpa meetings for 2004 would be held in Washington DC, and that five or six locations were under active consideration. At Evian, the U.S. delegation and media corps indicated that Hilton Head, South Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia, or a location in Florida, were the favourites on the short list. On June 23, 2003, the Associated Press reported that the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, was one of two resorts being considered, that the Summit would probably be held in June 2004, and that the U.S. would probably make a decision by the end of June 2003. As of July 4th, however, no official announcement had been made.

Does this lack of detail indicate that the United States under President Bush is not very interested in the Summit, especially following the divisions among G8 members over the spring 2003 war in Iraq? The answer is no. 2004 is an election year. Bush’s political team, especially remembering 2000 and the Florida recount, will need to take time to calculate how to use the Summit timing and hosting for maximum effect in a re-election campaign desigend to win the necessary electoral college votes in November 2004. More broadly, the U.S. is traditionally the last G8 member to plan and prepare for each summit, in contrast to the highly focused Canadians, Japanese and now Russians who plan years in advance. And in 2002 it took some months after the Summit for the French to announce where their 2003 Summit would be held.

Finally, the failure to specify, in the communiqué of a French-hosted Summit communiqué, when and where next year’s U.S.-hosted summit will take place has a distinguished pedigree. As the table below indicates, the concluding communiqué of one year’s summit often does not specify the time or place of the event; it states only the country and the year. The communiqué of the first three summits, in 1975, 1976 and 1977, and those in 1979 and 1980, did not even do that. Bonn 1978 specified: "We also intend to have a similar meeting among ourselves at an appropriate time next year." It was only at the end of the first seven-year hosting cycle, at the Canadian-hosted summit in Ottawa and Montebello in July 1981, that the Summit declared itself to be an institution with a one-year shadow into the future. Its declaration ended with the words: "We have agreed to meet again next year and have accepted the invitation of the President of the French Republic to hold this meeting in France."

The French in 1982 did not follow the Canadian example, leaving Ronald Reagan’s America in 1983, followed by Margaret Thatcher’s Britain in 1984, to follow Canadian leadership and institutionalize the summit in this way, through public binding. In 1988, the Canadians, with French collaboration, took another great leap forward, ending their communiqué with a full section on "Future Summits," which pledged to "institute a further cycle of Summits by accepting the invitation of the President of the French Republic to meet in France, July 14-16, 1989." The institutional shadow of the future thus lengthened from one to seven years, and the specific date of next year’s summit was known a full year in advance.

This time the French, with U.S. collaboration, followed, if not the Canadian precision, then the new summit norm. In 1990, President George Bush, with the collaboration of the British, followed, and added the specific month. In 1991, the British offered not just the month, but also, for the first time, the city. This tradition continued in subsequent years, save for the Italians (and Canadians) in 1994, who did not specify the month. But next year the francophone twins of Canada and France once again provided a precise date and place. The French in 1996 did get from Bill Clinton the city, but not the month, for the summit the following year. After that, providing both the actual date and the city became the norm — but only for three years. The 2000 communiqué did not even mention the month. In 2001, the Canadians provided the Italian host with a precise date and a province. In 2002, the Canadians provided an eight-year institutional shadow of the future, and specified that Russia would host in 2006, but gave only a month and no location for the French-hosted Summit in 2003. The 2003 communiqué was the first since 1989 to specify neither a month nor a location beyond the host country. But 1998 had been the last communiqué to give both a date and a city. And never in summit history have the French extracted from the Americans even as much information as a month. Only once — 1996 — did they obtain a city or state. The Evian communiqué thus continued this Franco-American tradition, rather than ruptured it.

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Table: Identification of Subsequent Summits in G7/8 Communiqués








"next year"




"next year"




"next year"

United Kingdom


"next year"



"next year"






"next year"



"July 14-16"



"next year"



"next July"



"July 1992"



"July 1993"



"July 1994"






"June 27-29"



"next year"



"May 15-17"



"18-20 June"



"July 21-23"

Okinawa (Kyushu)


"next year"



"June 26-28"



"June 2003"





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