Scholarly Publications and Papers
Help | Free Search | Search by Year | Search by Country | Search by Issue (Subject) | G8 Centre

Canadian Foreign Policy and the Seven Power Summits

Timothy Heeney

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

[Previous] [Document Contents] [Next]

This summit ranked a dismal "E" on Putnam and Bayne's cooperation scorecard and is commonly referred to as "The Little Summit that Wasn't''.(104) An editorial in Business Week contained the following description:

This is somewhat of an exaggeration, but the news hungry media was preoccupied to an incredible degree with the Bitburg ceremony and did not seem to notice that nothing much was decided at the summit. Reagan had a new mandate and the only new leaders were Craxi of Italy and Brian Mulroney of Canada. But the summiteers failed to come to any new conclusions.

This summit marked the height of convergence" - each country stated in the communiqué what its own economic course was, but there was no effort to coordinate policy.(106 ) The two principal economic issues at Bonn were setting a date for the start of a new GATT round and improving the workings of the international monetary system to prevent wild currency fluctuations. The French were isolated in their opposition to setting a date for the GATT round but were stubborn enough to succeed. The French were also the primary proponents of reform of the international monetary system but no substantive progress was made at all on this issue.

The main political issue at Bonn was participation in Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Unanimity was also impossible on this issue because of stiff French opposition to the project and German hesitation. Much of the time at Bonn was spent in casual conversation about the rise of Gorbachev in the Soviet Union. Politically Bonn produced no significant results. But it did not take place in the sort of divisive atmosphere of Versailles, partly due to the media distraction with Bitburg.

This was the first summit attended by Prime Minister Mulroney, who had been elected in a landslide in September 1984. Mulroney tried to use the Bonn summit as a forum for establishing himself on the world stage and get out from under the lingering shadow of Trudeau's reputation as an international statesman. This proved to be no easy task despite, the efforts of his advisors to discredit Trudeau.(107 )By his nature, Mulroney was much more driven toward consensus than Trudeau, due to his background as a labour lawyer. He commented on the looming dispute between Mitterand and Reagan before the summit: "Obviously, because of our background, we would be provide any bridging assistance required.''(108) Although Trudeau had acted as a mediator at the summit before, Mulroney was unlikely to be as outspoken or isolated as Trudeau because he shared common conservative beliefs with the other leaders, especially on East-West/NATO issues. It also appeared in 1985 that Mulroney would follow in Trudeau's footsteps on North-South issues when he claimed: I think it's my responsibility to make sure for those who aren't there that their voices are heard."(109)

Although the Bonn summit itself was not a particularly successful one, Canada did make a significant contribution in its 'traditional' areas. The North-South dialogue was the focus of pre-summit Canadian media briefings. In the discussion on relations with developing countries Canada proposed a plan for a "third window" to help debtor countries that were neither major debtors nor the poorest of the poor, but whose imminent collapse could threaten the World Bank.(110) World Bank profits would be used to finance low interest loans to these countries who had been hit hard by plunging commodity prices. This concept was contained in section 8 of the final communiqué but no concrete measures were taken. Mulroney also played up his role as a conciliator between France and the USA on trade and monetary reform, a role facilitated by his language abilities, although this has yet to be confirmed from other sources (111). He did not mention Chancellor Kohl's role as a mediator which was the focus of non-Canadian media reports. Another event which dominated Canadian media reports was the public contradiction between Clark and Mulroney on the US decision to impose sanctions on Nicaragua without consulting Canada first. This sort of behaviour did not help Canada's image at the summit.

The issues which Mulroney pursued at the Bonn summit were not significantly different from the previous pattern of Canadian participation, even if Mulroney did not have the same stature as a respected world leader as his predecessor. To the outside world there was no striking difference between Mulroney and Trudeau. They just did not know Mulroney as well. The best way to sum up Canada's role at the Bonn summit in 1985 is through a headline in the Toronto Star: Prime Minister ecstatic over summit role but other leaders hardly noticed''.(112)

Source: Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto.

[Previous] [Document Contents] [Next]

G8 Centre
This Information System is provided by the University of Toronto Library and the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
Please send comments to:
This page was last updated .

All contents copyright © 1995-99. University of Toronto unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.