The Group of Eight (G8) Summit is an annual meeting attended by the leaders of the eight countries, namely, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, and the President of the European Commission. "Summit" in the strict sense means a leaders' meeting, but it usually refers to a series of meetings which include those of foreign ministers and finance ministers that are held prior to the leaders' meeting.

At the Summit, leaders freely and vigorously exchange opinions on a variety of issues facing the global community centering on economic and social problems. They work to reach a consensus to make top-down decisions. The results are then compiled into a declaration. In a globalized world, countries are becoming increasingly interdependent. Events unfold with drastic speed and the impact of events becomes more significant beyond national borders. Flexible, resolute, and well-balanced decisions as well as effective measures are needed in order to deal with such situation. Unlike other international forums, the G8 Summit does not have a secretariat, but can make appropriate decisions and swiftly implement measures as the leaders -- who are in a position to comprehensively oversee the various fields in their countries -- will act decisively in the meeting.

The host country of the Summit holds the G8 presidency for the entire calendar year. The Presidency carries out preparatory meetings and prepares for the Summit meeting, Foreign Ministers' meeting and Finance Ministers' meeting. Furthermore, the Presidency may call for emergency meetings as necessary in light of international situations at a given time.

In the past, Japan has assumed the G8 Presidency for four times, namely, in 1979, 1986, 1993, and 2000. In 2008, Japan will assume the Presidency for the fifth time and will hold the Summit in Hokkaido Toyako.

Background of the Summit

In the early 1970s, developed countries, faced with various problems such as the Nixon Shock (devaluation of the dollar) and the first oil crisis, began to realize the need for a top-level forum to discuss, in a comprehensive manner, policy coordination for global economic issues such as macro economy, currencies, trade, and energy.

Against this backdrop, the first summit meeting was held as proposed by Mr. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, then-President of France among the six countries, namely France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom, at the Chateau de Rambouillet in the suburbs of Paris in November 1975.

As the result of the Rambouillet Summit of 1975 was recognized the importance of a forum of the leaders of developed countries to discuss policy coordination to address global economic issues. Since then, the leaders have had an annual meeting with the rotating presidency among the countries.

Later, in addition to global economic issues, political issues appeared on the agenda, which included East-West confrontation arising from the Cold War, international issues following the end of the Cold War, North-South issues, along with world affairs of the times. Furthermore, global issues, such as environment, drugs, terrorism, AIDS and other infectious diseases, were added to the agenda. In this manner, the importance of the Summit is becoming greater and greater as a forum for policy coordination among the major developed countries.