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Financial Post, Weekly edition, Thu 28 Apr 88, page 14. Editorial.


Relevance of the coming summit

Prime Minister Mulroney will hardly have unpacked from his Washington visit with President Reagan before he is off on a quick swing through Europe the week of May 23. He will meet with the leaders of Britain, France, West Germany, Italy and the European Community.

His European trip is part of the pre-economic summit round of meetings. As host of this year's summit of the seven industrialized nations in Toronto in June, Mulroney is conforming to the tradition of visiting the participants ahead of time. (He saw Japanese Prime Minister Takeshita in Toronto in January.)

All this high-level palavering leads to a good deal of cynicism about cashing in on the perks of office. The conventional wisdom is that the economic summit produces nothing of substance.

But the summit, along with other international gatherings, are part of a total package of meetings, each of which has a part to play in moving the participants toward better economic solutions. Among the meetings already held this year leading up to the summit are the Cairns Group meeting in February to discuss agricultural subsidies; NATO heads of government in March; International Monetary Fund/G-7 Finance ministers meeting earlier this month; and the meeting of Trade ministers from Canada, the U.S., Japan, and the EC also this month.

Still to come are the Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development meeting in Paris in May, and the Reagan/Gorbachev summit May 29-June 2, in Moscow.

These gatherings will have an impact on the economic summit. Agricultural subsidies, defence policy, exchange rates, trade protectionism - all these issues will have been thrashed over in pre-summit meetings. The positions developed, along with the preparatory work done by the summit leaders' staffs, will go into the maw for consideration by the seven.

This is not to say that pre-summit meetings and mighty preparations will produce miracles in Toronto in June. It does mean that the summit should not be considered in isolation from other international co-operative efforts. The importance of the summit, as Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Allan Gotlieb has noted, is that as a gathering of heads of government it can give the vital political impetus to policies advocated in other international meetings - such as the General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade, OECD and IMF.

All the persuasive arguments in the world count for little if there's no political drive to make necessary changes. That's what gives the economic summit relevance. That's why it's more than dinners, cocktail parties and photo opportunities.

This information is provided by the Financial Post.
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Revised: June 3, 1995

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