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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 summit has been called the "textbook case of international policy co-ordination". It received the highest score on Putnam and Bayne's scorecard . (34 ) In fact, it was probably more an example of policy convergence than actual co-ordination, but nevertheless there was a successful meshing of domestic and international pressures in Bonn.(35) There were no new leaders at Bonn which meant that no time had to be spent with 'getting to know you' activities. This allowed the leaders to make meaningful progress on all of the important issues facing the global economy.

The main issues and results of the Bonn summit were in the macro-economic, trade and energy areas. Specific macroeconomic targets for each summit country were contained in the final communiqué and the 'locomotive' debate was brought to an end with the Germans and the Japanese agreeing to apply additional stimulus measures to help bolster and sustain economic prosperity in the other summit countries. In return the USA agreed to cut energy consumption and establish a "strategic oil reserve" of one billion barrels.(36 ) In the trade area, impetus was given to the Tokyo Round and a deadline was set for December 15, 1978. For the first time ever an official political communiqué was released on the subject of air-hijacking.

In Canada, Trudeau knew he would be facing an election within a year but this did not seem to affect his performance. Since the Bonn summit Canada had been invited to a meeting of the Tripartite trade ministers in June in Washington DC to draft an agreement on trade liberalization for the conclusion of the Tokyo Round. This would be a precursor to Canada's official membership in the trade ministers Quadrilateral in 1981. Prior to leaving for the Bonn summit, a Canadian "official" was quoted as saying that "what Canada wants is what everyone else wants'. in regard to the macro-economic questions, implying that Trudeau was not going to Bonn with-a shopping list.(37) Trudeau also stated prior to the Bonn summit that. We re not one of the key players at this poker game."(38)

Despite this disclaimer Canada did play a significant role at Bonn, although not in the discussions on macro-economic targets. Trudeau said at his final news conference: "'Nothing specific was asked of us."(39 ) In the communiqué, however, Canada specifically pledged to restrain inflation, reduce unemployment and strive for an annual growth rate of "up to 5%. Indeed, when Trudeau returned to Canada he instituted a new tight fiscal policy without real consultation with his Cabinet. It was rumoured that while spending an afternoon sailing with Chancellor Schmidt after the summit Trudeau conceived of his economic plans for Canada. It is much more likely that he had already decided on an economic course for Canada and just used the summit and the sailing jaunt to fine tune his policy.(40) Either way, the summit helped to shape and give authority to Canadian policy.

In the discussions on energy. Canada agreed to maintain supplies of nuclear fuel, but stressed that this could only be guaranteed "within the framework of effective safeguards".(41) It was also reported in the press that Canada made some proposals for helping LDCs with their energy policies. This initiative resulted in section 15 of the final communiqué but did not offer any concrete proposals.(42)

The two issues which a Canadian official at the Bonn summit recalled as being of particular importance to Canada were trade and terrorism.(43) Trudeau is reported to have spoken "most harshly" on trade and the Canadian delegation was pleased that a specific deadline date was set for the Tokyo Round.(44 ) According to Canadian media stories and confirmed by a personal interview with a participant, the air-hijacking statement was a Canadian initiative. There had been no preparation beforehand on this issue but the Canadian delegation called in an expert on terrorism from the Department of External Affairs to help draft the final statement which was ratified by all seven leaders.(45) The issue was initially brought up by Trudeau during the informal exchanges on the first night and most of the detailed discussion and drafting took place at the foreign ministerial meetings in the following days. Canada can therefore take primary responsibility for achieving the first ever official political communiqué at the Seven Power Summit. These political communiqués and statements would become a permanent feature of all of the summits to follow.(46) Unidentified sources also claimed that once again Trudeau told the other leaders to abandon their prepared statements at the beginning of the official sessions in an effort to promote more free-wheeling discussion.(47)

Source: Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto.

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