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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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There were three new leaders at the first Tokyo summit: Thatcher from Britain, Ohira from Japan and Joe Clark from Canada. This meant that there was a certain amount of time was spent in 'getting to know you' sessions. But this summit was dominated by the single issue of energy. It was immediately preceded by the second oil price shock brought about by the fall of the Shah of Iran and an OPEC meeting two days before the Tokyo summit. During this meeting the price of crude oil was raised by 24%.(48 ) All preparations which had been made by the sherpas to continue progress on the issues of the Bonn summit were ignored by the leaders at Tokyo as they searched for a solution to the energy crisis and its immediate macro-economic effects.(49)

Energy issues occupied over half of the final communiqué and showed that the summit could be used as a forum for crisis management. The leaders did not solve all of their problems as inflation did rise significantly in all but two of the summit seven countries.(50) But the summit did have a unifying effect and put an end to the panic conditions which had existed before it met. Individual all import targets were set for the USA, Canada, Japan and the European Community as a whole. On the macro-economic front the summit participants agreed to do everything possible to isolate the inflated energy prices in their own countries, especially through preventing a corresponding rise in incomes.

Joe Clark was certainly not as sophisticated or well-known as Trudeau had been. Indeed, the Tokyo summit was Clark's first real foray into international affairs, an area in which he was generally inexperienced. At least one participant was quoted (in an American newspaper) as saying that he "lamented the absence of ...Trudeau, who enlivened previous economic conferences with sharp and frequently sarcastic wit."(51) Clark never really had a chance to make his mark on the economic summit because, like all of the other leaders, he was totally occupied with the energy issue. Having only been elected weeks before the summit, Clark was very aware that he should not overplay his hand and considered himself lucky that the most of the summit was spent on only one issue, and one with which he had a decent understanding due to his Albertan background. (52) Canada only agreed to cut its import of all to 1% growth (from a projected 1.5% growth). A Canadian participant recalled that Canada came through in good shape with relatively easy targets, probably because Clark pledged to move Canada toward energy self-sufficiency by 1990, Despite falling oil production.(53) Clark was strongly urged by the other leaders to bring the price of oil in Canada to world levels. This was a move which he had planned to do anyway. But his subsequent effort to do so was a major factor in the fall of his minority government in Parliament in December 1979.

Source: Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto.

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