Financial Post G7 Record

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Financial Post, Weekly edition, Thu 15 Jun 95, page 15

Keywords: Economic summits Journalists Foreign relations China World Halifax

GETTING READY FOR THE G-7 'GABFEST': Finding beds for the scribes, heading off U.S.-Japan trade war

Allan Fotheringham

Well, you see, some bright people preparing for the 1995 G-7 gabfest had a brilliant idea.

One of the chief problems in having half the world's media to these affairs is that they have nothing to cover.

All the meetings of the seven summit leaders are closed, none of them will submit to interviews and essentially there is nothing to do for the three days but attend Saturday's wrap-up press conference and communique.

Idle hands make mischief and, so, all the scribes have to do is sit around and bitch. The solution? It was a great idea. Anchor the QE2 in Halifax harbor as the bunking quarters for the media. It was known that the reason ''only'' 2,000 of the beasts - as opposed to the 3,000 in Naples last year - had asked for accreditation was because of the obvious trepidation about the lack of local five-star digs.

A coddled press in luxury quarters, it was reasoned, would be in no mood to whine about all the millions spent on the seven delegations.

Alas, Cunard Lines said the QE2 was fully booked elsewhere. The brilliant minds in Ottawa who had devised the idea had another great one: rent a Bulgarian cruise liner, offer to refit it up to journalistic standards and then give it back to the Bulgarians without charge.

Alas and alack, the vulgar Bulgars refused. So it is that Sondra Gotlieb, she of the sardonic pen and assigned to cover the G-7 for Saturday Night, has been assigned a bunk in the Journey's End Motel in Dartmouth.

One cannot wait for her copy.

The G-7 hosts are rolling their eyes over the American-Japanese ''car wars'' dispute that is heating up. ''It's a form of kabuki theatre,'' sighs an academic who is on the Canadian team. ''Washington does this every time before a G-7 meeting - going into a spate of Japan-bashing for political reasons.

''The Japanese know what is going on. The Americans know the Japanese know what is going on. Pure kabuki.''

Washington has set a deadline of June 28 for a threat of 100% punitive tariffs on $5.9 billion of Japanese luxury cars - unless Tokyo loosens its fences on U.S. car parts.

This time the political sub-text is car-rich (and voter-rich) California, which Bill Clinton must win if he is retain office and where Governor Pete Wilson still may be his Republican opponent rather than Bob Dole.

Washington's trade hitman is Mickey Kantor, a former Hollywood lawyer who, says his Japanese counterpart, ''treats me worse than my wife when I come home drunk.''

Host Jean Chretien, somewhat wearily, has asked the combatants not to bring the battle here. He wants it shunted off to the new World Trade Organization in Geneva, which is to replace the not-loved GATT.

Theatre, which is what the G-7 is all about. Pure theatre.

What can you say about a world ''summit'' that includes Canada and Italy and not China?

Tom Friedman of the New York Times, like most observers, knows this Group of Seven is an anachronism and suggests it be renamed the Geriatric-7. Most anyone who counts knows this gang is on its last legs and can't continue with any credibility while Boris Yeltsin has to sit out in the hall and is given a biscuit on the last day.

Friedman, in suggesting his own real G-7, includes China, Nick Leeson - the 28-year-old Barings Bank trader who represents all the whiz kids who move money around the globe in nanoseconds - and Michael Jordan, whose personal GDP is bigger than half the countries in the world.

Jeffrey Garten, U.S. undersecretary of commerce for international trade, suggests the list along with China should include India, which in another decade will be the world's most populous country, and Brazil, the most powerful country in the Western Hemisphere outside the U.S. Brazil already accounts for almost half the GDP of South America.

A Wall Street type says the seven realistically should include Rupert Murdoch, who has put together the first global communications network and is frightening, and Mother Teresa: ''because she understands that promoting economic efficiency - a G-7 speciality - is not the same as building a caring society.''

(Ed. note) Allan Fotheringham is a weekly columnist for Maclean's magazine.

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