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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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Starting from the premise that the Western Economic Summit is a valuable and meaningful institution, it is accurate to conclude that Canada's membership in it is very significant. This is true both for Canada's stature as an international actor and for the conduct of its foreign policy in the 1970s and 1980s. Canada's participation in the summit has not determined the content of its foreign policy or produced any spectacular foreign policy successes. But it has been a forum in which policies are shaped and integrated, both explicitly and implicitly, with other principal powers. Canada is clearly not one of the dominant powers at the summit table or always an issue-maker, constrained as it is by limited capabilities and the perceptions of its limits by some other participants. But it has made a mark on the summit in areas of particular interest to it and the countries it feels it at least informally represent at the summit. An indication of the importance of the Seven Power Summit In Canada's current foreign relations can be seen in a confidential report that at the annual agenda-setting meeting of the senior staff of the Department of External Affairs in Ottawa in January 1988, the undersecretary, Cy Taylor noted that all foreign policy in the coming year should be framed in the context of the Free Trade Agreement and the Toronto summit. Obviously the Seven Power Summit has come to occupy a very significant place in Canadian foreign policy.

Source: Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto.

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