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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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The annual summit of the mayor industrial democracies is a relatively new phenomenon in international political and economic relations, and one that has evolved into an institution of real significance. Scholarly analysis of 'the summit', however, has not proceeded at the same pace.(1) Particularly absent from the literature is any detailed analysis of any one country's participation in the summit process and the role of the summit in that country's overall foreign relations.

This study conducts such an analysis for Canada. It does so, inevitably, in a limited fashion. The absence of available internal government documents has made it necessary to rely heavily on newspaper accounts, which are at times not the most reliable source, and personal interviews, which are often hampered by partial memory lapses, biases, and reluctance to disclose secrets such a relatively short time after the events themselves. None the less, this preliminary study will offer some insight as to the dominant patterns of Canada's involvement in the Seven Power Summit.

This study does not evaluate the summit as an institution, nor give a detailed account of the general proceedings of each summit. It outlines the origins of the summit, gives a brief history of its functions, describes its transformation into a wide-ranging international body, explains why Canada values its membership in the summit, and identifies the pattern of Canada's involvement In the summit since 1976. It then presents a summit- by-summit analysis of Canada's participation at each of the twelve summits it has attended.

For each summit that our representatives attended, some background, both external and domestic, is needed to place our behaviour in context. It will point out as briefly as possible the main issues that were addressed and discussed by the summit as a whole so that one is not given a warped view of the importance of the issues that the Canadian delegation was pursuing. The amount of such introductory material varies from summit to summit depending on the success and level of cooperation, or lack of it, that the summit achieved. The main thrust of this section is not to provide an exhaustive study of each summit as a whole, but is to pick out what Canada was concentrating on and how they were doing it. This does not necessarily entail looking for decisions in which Canada had a great stake because the summit does not actually produce many decisions.

This analysis reveals the dominant pattern of Canada's involvement and participation in the Seven Power Summit. Moreover, it demonstrates that the summit has become a very significant part of Canada's overall foreign policy, both economic and political.

Source: Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto.

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