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Financial Post, Weekly edition, June 5, 1980

Trudeau leads the way in planning summits

Patricia Anderson (Stockholm)

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau is putting flesh on the bones of his post-election promise to become more involved in international issues.

He has already started a campaign to shape next year's summit of the seven major industrialized countries which will be held in Canada (possibly Ottawa, but a final decision won't be made for two months) under his chairmanship.

At the same time, he is taking a leading role in promoting a "mini-summit" of up to 30 countries to energize the pathetic progress of the North-South dialogue. He has suggested Canada as a possible site (although probably not under his chairmanship, he says), and he wants the mini-summit to precede the Summit of Seven.

The two summits were front and centre in discussions he had last week during official visits in Rome, London and Stockholm after the Venice summit.

Trudeau says he is trying to get agreement from his fellow summiteers to streamline the Summit of Seven process, and expects to meet with them often in the next 12 months.

The summit process has gained momentum - and flab - since the French organized the first one six years ago. This year in Venice, not only did the heads of state or government, their foreign ministers, finance ministers and Energy ministers, along with 105 official delegates, have to crowd round the table, but they also spent much time on the precise wording for a prepackaged 11-page communiqu.

Fewer officials

Trudeau wants his summit to be much smaller. He would like to see perhaps just the heads of government or state and the foreign ministers gather with fewer officials for discussions. He would also like to do without the details of a lengthy communiqué written in advance, the result of preparatory meetings of civil servants and government officials.

As chairman of the next summit, Trudeau doesn't want discussions to focus on issues previously agreed upon. He would like to study questions not yet answered - particularly those pertaining to the worsening dilemma faced by the oil-poor countries and the issue of how the industrialized world could be doing more to establish a balance. He says the Seven have yet to examine the institutions that house the North-South dialogue with the same kind of "freshness" that has characterized discussions about other major issues.

The yearly staging of an economic gathering of the seven countries that collectively represent the lion's share of the world's industrial output, seems to have been firmly established. Moreover, Trudeau, among others, has successfully implemented the notion of political discussions at the economic summit -- when political events so dictate. Indeed, political discussions in the context of the Summit of Seven may be the only way to ensure Canada's voice is heard on the world stage. Regular meetings at the ambassadorial level are taking place among the U.S., France, West Germany and Britain in an attempt to institutionalize a form of political summit - an idea the French are pushing.


If, as Trudeau himself agrees, the personality of the chairman establishes the tone at the summit table, he looks to a more informal and less cumbersome exchange of ideas. Under West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who chaired the 1978 summit in Bonn, consensus was difficult because of Schmidt's tough-mindedness. Similarly, last year in Tokyo, the lack of a common language between Prime Minister Ohira and the other summiteers slowed down the process. To the end of sharpening the direction of next year's summit, Trudeau has been promoting the mini-summit recommendation of the Brandt Commission, which studied the North-South problem (and whose report has been selling extremely well in Europe). This would see the industrialized, developing and Opec nations working out ways to reduce the glaring inequities among them.

Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky and Mexican President Lopez Portillo have taken up the banner and now have been joined by Trudeau, who may be on an executive committee to arrange the meeting. Trudeau even ventured at Venice that he was in favor of the Soviet bloc being represented at such a gathering - though that matter is by no means yet resolved.

As well as discussing the matter with government leaders in Rome, London and Stockholm in his whirlwind European trip last week, he met in London with former British Prime Minister Edward Heath, an avid promoter of better communication between rich and poor (and a possible candidate for next president of the World Bank) to discuss the idea.

This mini-summit would not replace the global negotiations to be organized at a special session of the United Nations this fall. According to Canadian officials, it would, it is hoped, act as a stimulus to advance the UN process.

Yet, even as the effort gears up to get a mini-summit off the ground, aid figures tell a different story. The United Nations has set an aid target of 1% gross national product for industrialized countries. At 0.47%, Canada lags behind many of its richer colleagues - and that figure is down from the 0.52% of GNP that went to aid in 1978. No one in the industrialized club meets the 1% target - although many, including Canada and Sweden, are studying the question of tying aid to export financing for domestic companies.

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