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Financial Post, Weekly edition, June 12, 1976

Uneasy at the summit

Hyman Solomon (Washington)

There is no lack of major economic issues to absorb President Gerald Ford, Prime Minister Trudeau, and the five other national leaders who will gather at an economic summit meeting late this month in Puerto Rico.

The problem, however, is whether political difficulties at home will allow the leaders to do more than talk and make political hay, with an eye to the folks back home.

Seldom has the collection of nations to be at the summit looked so politically troubled. The U.S. is in the midst of an election year. Britain is floundering with a minority government and major financial problems. West Germany is having election problems, while the Japanese premier is trying to avoid being replaced.

The Italians, whose economy is probably the worst of all, face an election in the next few weeks.

The background is unfortunate because it will be difficult for the leaders to concentrate on such collective problems as how to avoid another overheated world economy and how to meet the demands of poor nations for a larger slice of the economic pie.

President Ford rightly pointed out that leaders of industrial democracies must meet not just in times of crisis (as they did seven months ago in Rambouillet, France), but also in times of relative economic stability.

Despite the political uncertainties, preparations in national capitals began in earnest this week and the basic objective was to plan an agenda that would work.

Oil prices, access to basic materials, international currency problems, the different pace of recovery in the various nations, and the prospects for a fresh outbreak of inflation were all legitimate candidates for discussion.

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