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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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Another election year in the United States hampered serious progress on significant Issues at London, just as at Puerto Rico and Venice. The other leaders were very aware that Reagan was leading in the polls and according to one senior aide, "no one wanted to rock the boat for him."(95) There was no major economic crisis facing the west but the debt problems of the developing nations were getting high profile media coverage as several countries in South America were publicly contemplating defaulting on loans. On the eve of the London meetings, the Non-Aligned Movement and the presidents of seven Latin American debtor countries made an appeal to the summit to do something about the debt crisis. France and Canada supported the idea of at least sending a signal to the Third World, but it was impossible to get any firm commitments from Reagan in an election year.(96)In the end there was a general agreement to support the efforts of the IMF and World Bank to adopt a "case by case" approach to debt restructuring, starting with Mexico.

Other economic subjects at the summit were trade (particularly the desire of some countries for a new GATT round), and US monetary policy (an issue which got nowhere because of the American election campaign). There were a broad range of political topics discussed at London, such as East-West relations, the Persian Gulf, terrorism, and a nebulous "Declaration on Democratic Values". The conservative consensus was in full swing to promote an image of harmony at the London summit in the absence of real progress on substantive issues.

This was a 'lame-duck' summit for Canada. Prime Minister Trudeau had announced his resignation on February 29th and was within two weeks of being replaced at a leadership convention when he attended the London summit In June 1984. He was described by one participant as "moody and distracted and had a definite personal agenda relating to his lackluster 'Peace Initiative' of the previous December.(97)Despite the lack of concrete results, Canada's participation at London showed all the aspects of its previous involvement in the summit and reflected many aspects of its general foreign policy, notably peace, North-South relations, debt, trade liberalization, and a new issue -the environment. Trudeau's angry exchanges with Reagan about superpower arms control were reported widely in the international press, particularly Reagan's retort: "Damn it, Pierre, we've offered them everything. What more can I do to get them back to the table?". Trudeau responded, "For heaven's sake, Ron, do a bit more."(98)Obviously Trudeau was not overly concerned with maintaining personal relations with Reagan and was keen to revive the goals of his peace initiative. He presented the other leaders with a draft East-West communiqué on the first night which outlined "areas of common agreement", but only parts of it ended up in the final statement on East-West relations released at the end of the conference.(99)Trudeau was described by the Christian Science Monitor as "the summit peacenik" and was portrayed by other newspapers as the odd man out.(100)

In the trade discussions Canada lobbied unsuccessfully with the Japanese, against French and American opposition, for the launch of a new GATT round of multilateral trade talks. Trudeau continued his support for measures to help relieve Third World debt but was distracted by his concern for peace and arms control. He is reported to have made an "impassioned plea" about the environment, according to an unidentified Canadian spokesman, but not to have specifically mentioned acid rain.(101)Lalonde, along with all of the other non-American finance ministers, found it hard to deal with the US delegation on the topic of America's high interest rates and budget deficit:

Trudeau also raised a few eyebrows in his criticism of the Statement on Democratic Values which he referred to as "full of clichés and banalities."(103)

Source: Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto.

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