The United States and Summit Reform in a Transformational Era

Editor’s Note: As the G8 meets in Japan, there are many questions about how well represented emerging powers and regions are integrated in the yearly summit. Colin Bradford explores critical questions about potential summit reform from a U.S. perspective and also discusses results from a recent survey he conducted on the role of the G8.


The United States is at a critical turning point. The 2008 presidential contest and election represents a potential watershed in American politics and foreign policy. This chapter begins by exploring some of the elements both defining the watershed and potential principles and practices for managing the transition to a new era in global politics. Summit reform is examined within the context of this transition to see what place it has for the United States in the mix of broader approaches to a new era and what potential it has for the U.S. as an instrument for transition. To better grasp the importance of summit reform in prospective U.S. approaches to reshaping its role in the world, a questionnaire was undertaken specifically for this book to determine what U.S. experts and officials think about summit reform in comparison to their counterparts from 15 other major countries. The results of this survey provide insights into the outlook for the Heiligendamm process of outreach to non-G8 countries and into the degree of convergence of views within the international community on summit reform. The survey also reveals the specific points of divergence between the views of leading Americans and their peers from other G8 countries as well as those from emerging market countries that are potential new members of an expanded summit grouping. These results provide the basis for reflections on prospective pathways forward for summit reform, in both its country composition and mandate, as we look ahead to 2009 and beyond.

This work was carried out with the support of The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Waterloo, ON, Canada (
) and is part of the upcoming edited volume of Copper A.F. and A. Antkiewicz (eds.), “Emerging Powers in Global Governance. Lessons from the Heiligendamm Process” CIGI/Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008.