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Anti-G8 activits hold globes reading 'Hello G20? This is the rest of the world' as they take part in a demonstration on May 21 in Le Havre in northwestern France. (DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)
Anti-G8 activits hold globes reading 'Hello G20? This is the rest of the world' as they take part in a demonstration on May 21 in Le Havre in northwestern France. (DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)


Harper will try to take new clout to G8/G20 Add to ...

A week of summits in France is Stephen Harper's first foreign foray as the head of a majority government.

But if his electoral success gives him new clout in Canada and added leeway in Parliament, at the upcoming summits he'll be just one of many world leaders struggling to find accord on everything from Middle East uprisings to policing the Internet and succouring newly vulnerable economies.

And at this particular summit, Canada has plenty of skin in the game: It's among several Group of Eight countries now at war in Libya; it has experienced first-hand the kind of cyber-attacks this week's Internet summit will try to tackle; and at a seminar on the social impacts of globalization, Canada will get the chance to tout its own recessionary recovery plan while brainstorming ways to tackle the systemic unemployment that's becoming an economic albatross.

Then there's the elephant in the meeting room - the seat that should have been occupied by former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, now in the United States facing charges of attempted rape and sexual assault; and that of Christine Lagarde, the French Finance Minister behind whom Western support has coalesced to replace Mr. Strauss-Kahn even as other countries call for someone who better represents emerging economies.

G20 globalization seminar

What is it?

A meeting of ministers from the G20 countries on the social impacts of globalization.

When is it?


What's on the agenda?

Jobs, jobs, jobs - how to create and keep high-quality employment, especially as jittery European countries face their own crises. "That sounds like a Sarko kind of topic," says Queen's University Professor Robert Wolfe, referring to France's President Nicolas Sarkozy. "The French have always been worried about délocalisation."

But this isn't just Europe's problem.

"For the first time, we have very severe, structural long-term unemployment in the United States," says John Kirton, head of the University of Toronto's G8 research group. This imperative to tackle unemployment will likely drive countries to agree on a solution.

Where does Canada come in?

While Europe teeters on the brink of financial crisis and Japan slips back into recession, Canada's economy looks great by comparison. Mr. Harper and his representatives at the seminar will likely push to keep borders open while promoting their own economic strategies.

E-G8 summit

What is it?

A meeting of G8 leaders and corporate representatives to tackle issues surrounding Internet security.

When is it?

Tuesday and Wednesday

What's on the agenda?

Everything from the Internet economy and the role of the online world in economic growth to "Internet and society," social media and the challenge of policing the Net.

What's angered many online advocates, however, is what isn't on the agenda. AccessNow, a group that advocates a freer Internet as a revolutionary tool, has castigated Mr. Sarkozy for not including more citizens' and civil-society groups. The people leading the meetings hail from Google, Facebook, France Telecom and eBay - not the populist bloggers behind online rebellions.

"Access to the Internet for all should be the underlying principle," says AccessNow executive director Brett Solomon.

Where does Canada come in?

Canada is no stranger to the importance of cyber-security: Ottawa was the target of hackers earlier this year, when tech-savvy miscreants compromised networks for the Finance Department, the Treasury Board and Defence Research and Development Canada. The Conservative government has also put forward legislation that would give police sweeping new powers of Internet surveillance.

G8 summit

What is it?

An official summit meeting of all G8-country leaders.

When is it?

Thursday and Friday

What's on the agenda?

The Arab Spring - how to respond to it, how to assist citizen-led uprisings without dictating their outcome and what to do about the ongoing war in Libya - will be "the dominant issue of the Deauville summit," Prof. Kirton said. "And it'll be the make-or-break issue."

There have been calls for further sanctions against Syria's Bashar al-Assad in the face of continuing violence against civilian protesters, as well as a version of the Marshall Plan - the post-Second World War recovery program for hard-hit European economies - for the Middle East. U.S. President Barack Obama hinted at some form of financial assistance in his speech on the topic last week.

The summit will also attempt to tackle the ongoing crisis in Japan. Fallout from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami has rocked the global nuclear industry and pushed the country back into recession. There will be debates over both macroeconomic and physical assistance to Japan.

Where does Canada come in?

As one of the driving forces behind the ongoing conflict in Libya, Canada heads into these discussions with a lot on the table. It also has the chance to play a seminal role.

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