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Definition: Group of Eight from Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable

A name for the eight leading industrialized nations: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Until Russia joined in 1998 the group was known as the Group of Seven, a label still current for the original seven as a financial entity. The name is often abbreviated to G8.

Summary Article: Group of Seven (G-7)
from The American Economy: A Historical Encyclopedia

An association of seven major industrialized nations of the world whose heads of governments meet annually to coordinate their economic policies.

The Group of Seven, or G-7, was formed in 1975 and includes the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and Canada (since 1976). Since 1977 the president of the European Commission has also attended the G-7 summits. By the end of the twentieth century, the other six members of the G-7 had accounted for 46 percent of U.S. foreign trade ($695.9 billion of U.S. exports to and $1,024.6 billion of U.S. imports from foreign countries, respectively). From 1975, when the first economic summit took place in Rambuillet, France, to 2001, the G-7 has held 27 summits. Four of these meetings were in the United States: San Juan, Puerto Rico (1976), Williamsburg, Virginia (1983), Houston, Texas (1990), and Denver, Colorado (1997).

In the 1970s and 1980s, the G-7 summits provided a high-level negotiating forum for discussion of numerous issues of mutual concern in international economic relations—for example, increased oil prices, inflation and economic stagnation, anticrisis economic measures, stabilization of finances including the U.S. dollar, liberalization of international trade, North-South relations in both the Western and Eastern Hemispheres, and the problem of debt of developing countries. The 1986 Tokyo summit established a framework for special consultations among finance ministers of the G-7 countries and the managing director of the International Monetary Fund to coordinate monetary policies of the industrialized world.

Since the 1978 Bonn summit, the United States and its industrialized trading partners Great Britain, France, Germany, and Japan have broadened the G-7 agenda, discussing topical political, strategic, and environmental issues. At the 1990 Houston summit, the G-7 began to develop a collective strategy to assist in the transformation of former communist economies. The G-7 invited the Soviet Union/Russia to participate in the 1991 London summit to discuss matters within Russia’s competence, particularly its debt and economic reforms. The 1997 Denver summit institutionalized Russia’s participation, and the Birmingham summit of 1998 officially renamed the group G-8, although the United States, its European trading partners, and Japan continue major economic and financial consultations within the traditional G-7 framework. With the progressive and expanding globalization of economy and trade in the information age, the G-7/G-8 has evolved from an informal economic forum to an effective directorate of leading powers, participation in which strengthens the global leadership of the United States. Even though globalization continues to progress, the meetings among the heads of state often draw protesters who oppose such globalization.

See also: Volume Two: Foreign Policy.

  • Bergsten, C. Fred. Global Economic Leadership and the Group of Seven. Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics, 1996.
  • Putnam, Robert D., and Bayne, Nichols. Hanging Together: Cooperation and Conflict in the Seven-Power Summits. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987.
  • Peter Rainow
    Copyright 2011 by ABC-CLIO, LLC

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