French speakers are gathering in Quebec to discuss the future of the French language and its key institutions. The financial crisis is expected to dominate talks.
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The global finance crisis is to overshadow a summit of some 30 French-speaking nations Friday to Sunday in Quebec City, and Canada-EU trade talks on its sidelines, say organizers.
The agenda of the 12th Francophonie summit hosted by Canada and Quebec was to focus on four main themes: the environment, the economy, democracy and the rule of law, and the struggles of French language itself.
But a global financial meltdown following the collapse in the United States of the subprime mortgage market suddenly eclipsed all other issues.
"The banking crisis, the financial crisis, and the food crisis, as well as the energy crisis: all of these are to be discussed by leaders at the summit," Abdou Diouf, secretary general of the Francophonie told AFP.
"The circumstances are such that we're the first North-South forum to take place amid this crisis and so it's an opportunity to measure its impact," particularly on poorer nations, said Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to make an opening address, and hold a series of bilateral meetings during his stay in Quebec City for the three-day summit.
According to a source, French President Nicolas Sarkozy "will propose a complete revamp of the world's financial system." He has alluded to this previously.
The French president is said to be seeking to build support for his plan before unveiling it at the next meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized nations (G7), and Russia.
Sarkozy is scheduled to leave the summit early to meet with US President George W. Bush on Saturday at Camp David, and also discuss current global financial woes.
They will be joined by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who is also attending the Canada-EU talks in Quebec City.
France will propose a sort of capitalism that favors entrepreneurs over stock speculators, more transparency of debt or credit rating agencies, and a review of chief executives' salaries and bonuses, said Alain Joyandet, France's minister responsible for the Francophonie.
"France expects support from its francophone partners on this matter," he said.
It is a "unique opportunity" for the Francophonie to take the lead in a worldwide crisis, said Jean Charest in an interview with AFP.
Canada's newly re-elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper also said "the global financial crisis would be the main topic of discussions" at the EU-Canada summit.
Canada-EU talks on Friday are hoped to bolster bilateral trade and help Canada diversify its economic partnerships, he said.
Currently, almost 75 percent of Canadian exports go south to its neighbor and biggest trading partner the United States.
In contrast, Canada takes in a mere 2.1 percent of EU exports and accounts for 1.6 percent of its imports.
Thursday, several heads of state arrived early for the talks including Gabon President Omar Bongo and his counterparts Paul Biay of Cameroon and Mali's Amadou Toumani Toure.
For the first time in four years, Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will be present as a guest of Canada and Quebec.
Algeria, a former French colony, however continues to balk at officially joining the Francophonie, which it views as an instrument of so-called French imperialism.
Presidents Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast and Rwandan Paul Kagame will be notably absent.
Quebec City is celebrating its 400th anniversary as the birthplace of French civilization in North America.
Locals are keen for the first address to Quebec's National Assembly by a French president during the summit.
Sarkozy upset many Quebec nationalists earlier in the year by touting France's close relationship with Canada, and they are hoping for a reaffirmation of Quebec's "special relationship" with France in his address.
Date created : 2008-10-18