THERE IS a certain ritual surrounding summit meetings, and it was observed in great detail at the Brian Mulroney/Ronald Reagan meeting in Ottawa last week. First of all, there is the usual surfeit of comment before the meeting. There is the usual media consensus that not much will be accomplished and the meeting will likely be just a public-relations exercise. Then, when no ironclad agreements emerge, there are complaints that nothing was achieved.
Surely by now we should be able to view these high-level meetings in perspective. As Hyman Solomon notes on the opposite page, Ronald Reagan cannot ignore Congress and the powerful bureaucratic and private-sector influences on policymaking. Similarly, Prime Minister though he may be, Mulroney can't guarantee to Reagan that Parliament will produce any particular piece of legislation.
This is as it should be in our systems. But, curiously, those who expect quick solutions and binding agreements are often those who are the first to decry the cult of the leader and the decline in influence of Parliament and other elected bodies.
The same unreasonable expectations will attend the June meeting in Vienna of the leaders of the seven major industrial nations. They will be wrestling with exchange-rate policies, debt, trade, the flow of technological information and other issues. There will be proposals to halt protectionism, to remove remaining restrictions on access to each country's capital markets, and to help Third World countries work their way out of debt. But no binding solutions will emerge.
We should accept these summits for what they can reasonably be expected to do: improve understanding, remove some irritants, and establish more trust. No reason to knock that.
DNOTE (Ed. Note) Refers to 'Reagan alone can't deliver trade deal', in 'Inside Ottawa' column, by Hyman Solomon, page 9.
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