20110526 g8leaders 54
The G8 leaders including (L-R) President of the European Commission Jose Maneul Barroso, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan walk to lunch after their first meeting at the G8 Summit on May 26, 2011 in Deauville, France. - 

Kai Ryssdal: In the face of a slowdown here, and in much of the rest of the world, one would think a meeting of the world's biggest economies in France this week would be all economy all the time. One would be wrong, if one thought that.

From the European Desk, Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.

Stephen Beard: These heads of the G8 group of countries -- half of them European -- have a big agenda: the Arab Spring, nuclear power, climate change, Internet regulation.

Summit-watcher Sean Rickard of the Cranfield School of Management is dismayed. He says the leaders aren't focusing lazer-like on the global economy.

Sean Rickard: Without a thriving global economy, many of the political leaders' abilities to do something on those other issues tends to wane.

Those other issues are all critical, says Bob McGee of Independent Strategy. But he also believes the summiteers are not paying enough attention to the number one question:

Bob McGee: Whether the global economy is really recovering and what coordinated policy action can be taken to sustain growth in the major economies.

And Sean Rickard says the G8 looks increasingly irrelevant. The G20 group of developed and rapidly emerging economies is the one to watch.

McGee: How can we be sensibly talking about the future without involving what are going to be the giants tomorrow -- certainly China, India, Brazil.

Yesterday, President Obama insisted the rise of China and India does not mean the demise of American and European influence. The G8 is supposed to prove that point. But today, investors ignored the gathering. One analyst told me: "We're much more interested in the G20 meeting later this year."

In London, I'm Stephen Beard for Marketplace.