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Canadian Foreign Policy and the Seven Power Summits

Timothy Heeney

Country Study Number One
Centre for International Studies
University of Toronto
May 1988

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This study is a limited attempt to fill the gap in scholarly literature on the Western Economic Summit. It focuses on a particular country's specific attitudes toward, and participation at, the annual meeting of the leaders of the world's leading industrial democracies. Canada's membership in the summit seven club is particularly important to examine due to the changing status of Canada in the world community since 1945.

The changing nature of power in the international system from a political/military to economic base, led to the rise of Canada's relative stature in the increasingly interdependent world of the 1970's and 1980's. The economic and political conditions under which the summit emerged as an international institution were such that Canada had to be included early in the process.

From 1976 to 1987, Canada's role and participation at the Seven Power Summits has evolved and grown. Canada now actively participates in setting economic and political priorities for the agenda of the world's industrial democracies. Moreover, the summit has provided a new and strong link to West Germany , Japan, and Italy, the defeated powers of World War II, as well as strengthening traditional ties to the USA, Britain, and France.

A detailed study of the actual content of Canada's participation at the summit tables yields a remarkable degree of continuity, regardless of immediate political factors a, personalities of the leaders. The specific areas which Canada has taken a special interest are North-South relations, freer multilateral trade, and political topics in general. These patterns become clear after a summit-by-summit analysis of the twelve summits that Canada has attended so far.

Canada's membership in the summit seven has become an increasingly important part of its foreign policy as a whole, both in terms of status and association. This trend is likely to continue as long as the Seven Power Summit itself remains an important international institution.

Source: Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto.

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