Search | Search by Year | Country
| Subject
| G7 Centre

Canada could add finishing touch to summit

John Kirton

Financial Post, Daily edition, Fri 08 July 94

As the leaders of the world's seven major industrial democracies and the European Union assemble in Naples this weekend for the 20th annual summit, there is less enthusiasm, energy or expectation than in earlier years. In part this is because Naples, despite a $50-million summit-inspired facelift, remains a second-tier port city known more for its unemployment, crime and poverty than its prospects for the future, But mostly it flows form the particular collection of personalities this year.

Hosting the 24-hour G-7 dialogue will be Italian Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi, who is new to politics, government and diplomacy, and whose six-week-old, right- wing coalition government is struggling to conduct a more assertive foreign policy and remain a good international citizen.

At the other end of the ideological spectrum, the deeply embarrassed Japanese will be represented by an unpopular prime minister with no ministerial or international experience, no political future, and primitive socialist, isolationist and protectionist instincts more at home in North Korea than in the West.

France and the European Union will be sending aging, lame-duck socialists, while Germany and Britain counter with conservative veterans preoccupied by domestic political survival and intra- European squabbles.

In such a setting U.S. President Bill Clinton, with his tenuous touch in foreign policy, may save his energy for the post-summit banquet and Sunday-morning encounter with Russia's Boris Yeltsin, whose commitment to a market economy, constitutional democracy and the independence of neighbouring states remains in some doubt.

It is thus fortunate that these leaders will not have to do much to make this summit a success. Most G-7 economies are expanding respectably, with inflation dormant or dead. the task now is to calm nervous currency and bond markets control cancerous government debts and deficits, and roll back the ill-conceived government barriers that prevent economic growth from generating jobs for the G-7's 24 million unemployed.

The leaders will also address poverty outside the G-7, perhaps by encouraging the International Monetary Fund to issue up to US$50-million-worth of new Special Drawing Rights, aimed at the new countries that have joined the IMF over the past decade.

The heads will need to ensure that the recently concluded Uruguay Round of multilateral trade agreements, achieved in part through some persistent diplomacy by Canadian sherpa Reid Morden in the lead-up to last year's summit, will be ratified at home by a self-absorbed U.S. and Japan.

Having donated US$43 billion of their taxpayers' money last year to a nuclear-armed Russia still occupying Japan's Northern territories, G-7 leaders will now want to mobilize some serious assistance for a disarming and economically struggling Ukraine. And they will take a close look at how collective G-7 action can help to contain the tribal genocide in distant Rwanda and, above all, in Bosnia next door.

Over the past year, Canadian diplomats, with an eye to their Halifax summit next year, have been working hard to make Naples a no-frills, businesslike exchange where leaders can collectively chart directions to confront the challenges of the post communist world. It is now up to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to provide the finishing touch.

While this will be his first time at the leaders' table, he comes with two decades of ministerial experience, first-hand memories of the successful 1978 summit, a wealth of international contacts and a folksy charm that has gone down well in important places such as Japan. Despite a slow start at summit diplomacy, he has improved steadily during his many international visits over the past eight months.

He offers a G-7 leading growth and inflation performance. And his domestic approval ratings, by far the best in the G-7 and enduring beyond the post-election honeymoon, show an impressive ability to move beyond the liberal middle to build a broader consensus for badly needed change.

At Naples these talents will be deployed on several fronts, Drawing on his domestic initiatives in unemployment insurance and social policy reform, Chrétien will tell his colleagues that G-7 publics do support leaders willing to abandon a bankrupt Swedish model and use more skilful forms of state interventional - ones that take the unemployed from endless welfare to the workplace experience and empowering education they need.

Because international trade is one of the best ways to generate good, new jobs, Chrétien will press for a speedy startup of the new World Trade Organization, and for a sensible way to deal with desirable, but intellectually difficult and potentially dangerous, environmental and labor demands.

Having responded to Europe's immediate need to make Chernobyl's nuclear reactors less dangerous, he will invite its leaders to take up the broader issue of making Ukraine as a whole a safer place - perhaps by mounting a special G-7 ministerial conference to define a financial assistance package to spark economic and further political reform.

And he will suggest that a more effective solution in Bosnia might come by diplomatically engaging not just a fitfully focused America, a far-from-united Europe and a once-great Russia, but also an Italy, Canada and Japan that provide the air bases and peacekeeping bodies, and pay the United Nations' bills.

These interventions are unlikely to produce any summit speculators for distracted summertime television audiences back home. But they constitute a substantial and quintessentially Canadian contribution to making Canada and the world a better place. They suggest that Chrétien's premier summit performance may well be one of which even Messieurs Trudeau and Mulroney would be proud.

(Ed. note) John Kirton is associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto and a leading authority on the G-7.

Source: This information is provided by the Financial Post.

[University of Toronto G7 
Information Centre]
[Top of Page]
This Information System is provided by the University of Toronto Library and the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
Please send comments to: g8info@library.utoron
Revised: July 22, 1996

All contents copyright ©, 1995. University of Toronto unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.