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Coming of Age: The European Community and The Economic Summit

Susan Hainsworth

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iii) EC Commission President Jacques Delors' Summits

1985: BONN (2-4 May)

Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney was the only truly new face at the Bonn summit; Jacques Delors, the new President of the European Commission, had been present at the four previous summit gatherings,in the capacity of French Finance Minister. The European Council Presidency was held by the Italian Prime Minister Craxi.

The European Community, which up until March 1985 had maintained a negative position regarding the pursuit of international trade liberalisation, had finally come to the point of deciding in favour of commencing a new round of multilateral GATT negotiations. However, the EC's stance with regard to the exact date of these new talks remained undetermined, as the Commission's 19 March 1985 statement declared: "The Community recognizes that a precise date for the launching of a new round cannot be fixed now" .70 The main reluctance to begin liberalisation talks still originated from the French, who were concerned that the CAP would receive unwelcome criticism in such talks. Indeed the French linked the overvaluation of the U.S. dollar and the consequent gaping U.S. trade deficit, with growing protectionist pressures, and stressed the necessity for parallel action in the domain of international monetary reform.71

Therefore the preparatory phases for the upcoming summit in Bonn were overshadowed by two major unresolved issues: the establishment of a starting date for the new GATT round, and the question of pursuing international monetary reform.

The 1985 Bonn Summit was immediately preceded by President Reagan's controversial visit to the Bitburg cemetary which was intended to stress the reconciliation between former enemies. Although this symbolic visit was not on the summit agenda, it preoccupied both the U.S. and West German political leaders at the summit itself. Indeed, Chancellor Kohl acknowledged his indebtedness to the U.S. President, who had received harsh domestic criticism for his actions in order to prevent a much wider and harsher public outcry in West Germany had the Reagan visit to Bitburg been cancelled. This indebtedness caused the West German leader to be very attentive and cooperative with American positions at the summit, even to the extent of breaking with the agreed EC line.

Such was indeed the case with regard to trade matters, when Kohl,in a pre-summit bilateral meeting with Reagan, expressed West German willingness to support the commencement of a new GATT round early in 1986. He thereby expressly identifying himself with the American position, and conspicuously went against the European line that no specific date could be set 72. Thatcher also backed Reagan on the issue of GATT talks. However, Mitterrand, holding to the European statement of 19 March 1985, and reflecting French domestic sensitivity toward agriculture, told the U.S. President that no agreement on a GATT starting date should be reached at the summit. Naturally, Delors supported Mitterrand and promoted the European position, and Craxi, as representative of the EC Council Presidency also lent support to the European line.

Thus, the issue of GATT talks reached a deadlock at the summit table, and the key positions were difficult to reconcile: the U.S. would only agree to a statement which specified 1986 as the starting GATT date, and the French would only agree to one which did not. Delors proposed several compromise solutions which Mitterrand still found unacceptable as they still pinpointed 1986. Finally, the statement: "We strongly endorse the agreement reached by the OECD...that a new GATT round should begin as soon as possible. Most of us think that this should be in 1986" 73 was agreed upon, openly signalling that no real summit consensus had been achieved on this crucial issue.74

At his post summit press conference, Mitterrand stressed that he had faithfully defended the EC position advocated by the Commission on the GATT talks so as to protect the CAP and to promote parallel treatment of trade and monetary matters75. On the other hand, he stressed, the Germans and British appeared to have abandoned the Community stance.

With regard to macroeconomic policy, continuity from previous years was evident: the main emphasis lay on reducing inflation,controlling public expenditure and reducing budgetary deficits. More than London in 1984, the Bonn 1985 meeting stressed the significance of structural reforms and adaptation as a catalyst for stronger growth and decreased unemployment. European governments,particularly in Italy, found their structural policies legitimized at the summit, giving them greater credibility in their domestic context.68

In the final communiqué, individual policy objectives for each delegation were included, for the first time since 1979. Significantly,the European Community's strategy to establish a single barrier-free market was given specific reference in the declaration: "The Commission of the European Communities attaches high priority to completing a genuine internal market without barriers, which will eliminate rigidities and generate fresh economic growth on a Community wide scale". This statement was a reflection of the events simultaneously taking place in the European Community system: at the March 1985 European Council meeting in Brussels the European heads of state or government had expressed their interest in achieving by 1992 a single European market which would provide a stimulant to economic growth in Europe. They had charged the Commission with the task of drawing up a specific timetable for internal market completion. In June 1985, one month after the Bonn Economic Summit, the Commission would submit its White Paper on the Internal Market, which would provide the basis for the EC's ambitious initiative to achieve a single market comprising 320 million people by 1992. It is significant that this nascent European aspiration which would gradually gain in scope and in influence in future summits--attained acknowledgement and legitimisation from the EC's summit colleagues at the 1985 Bonn Summit.

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