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G8 struggles to keep trade, aid promises; Canada ranks third-best

OTTAWA - Canada has slipped slightly to a third-place standing in a report card of how well G8 countries keep their promises.

OTTAWA - Canada has slipped slightly to a third-place standing in a report card of how well G8 countries keep their promises.

The assessment was put together by analysts at the University of Toronto and Moscow's State University Higher School of Economics.

It shows that the Group of Eight powerful countries are having some trouble living up to their commitments on trade and aid effectiveness made at last year's summit in L'Aquila, Italy.

But overall, the G8 is doing as well as it normally does in fulfilling the long list of commitments it undertakes every year at its annual summit.

The G8 as a whole scores an average of +0.33 on 24 top-priority commitments. A country scores +1 if it fully complies with the commitment, 0 if it shows partial compliance, and -1 for failing to comply.

Canada, with its score of +0.5, slipped to third place from second but shows at least some progress in almost every category except trade, where it gets a failing grade.

But that's only because Ottawa has decided to block the importation of flavoured cigarettes aimed at young people, and because it slapped a big duty on Chinese steel dumped in Canada.

Canada even manages to show positive scores for climate change, mainly because Ottawa has devoted resources toward climate research and development, green technology as well as carbon capture and storage.

The United Kingdom placed first in the G8 rankings, and Canada shared second place with Japan. Italy came last.

While the rankings show little change compared to most other summits, the G8 is doing a far better job at implementing its agenda this year than the year before, said Erin Fitzgerald, chair of the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto.

But she's concerned that trade barriers and the effectiveness of international aid remain persistent problems for the G8.

"Rarely do we see them following through," she said in an interview.

She's encouraged that Ottawa has made "accountability" a key focus of the work leading up to its G8 summit in Huntsville, Ont., planned for the end of June, as well as for the G20 summit in Toronto right after.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has frequently asked other world leaders to focus on keeping previous promises rather than setting out in new, bold directions. And he has set up a working group that concentrates solely on keeping promises.

"The fact that it's on the agenda is a good first step," said Fitzgerald.