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Compliance with G8 Commitments:
Ascertaining the degree of compliance With Summit debt and international trade commitments
For Canada and the United States 1996-1999

Diana Juricevic
POL 495Y
Professor John J. Kirton
Department of Political Science
Centre for International Studies
University of Toronto

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Theoretical Assessment

Although the total number of debt-related commitments arrived at by the leaders are lower than those for international trade from 1996-1999, the implementation of the key debt initiatives has nevertheless been more successful. Taken together, both Canada and United States recorded higher overall combined compliance scores with their debt commitments (62.5% or 64.5% adjusted for levels of significance) than with their international trade commitments (50% or 57.5% adjusted for levels of significance).1 Taken separately, significant cross-country variations exist, revealing a strikingly different pattern. Using the traditional compliance assessment scheme, Canada recorded a score of 50% compliance for both its debt relief initiatives and international trade initiatives. Adjusting for levels of significance, Canada's compliance record for international trade commitments rose nineteen percent to a total of 69% compliance while the record for debt relief initiatives increased eight percent to a total of 58%. In contrast to Canada, the United States both with and without significance-level adjustment revealed the opposite pattern: scoring higher for debt relief initiatives (75% or 71% adjusted for levels of significance) than for international trade initiatives (50% or 46% adjusted for levels of significance). What is further striking is that, in adjusting for levels of significance, the United State's overall compliance record in both issue areas fell below the non-adjusted level whereas Canada's compliance record rose above. This accounts for the fact that the United States implemented a larger number of less significant initiatives whereas Canada implemented a smaller number of more significant ones.

In spite of these findings, however, it is not clear whether a reliable comparison can be made between the empirical results of this study and those of earlier works. Take for example the issue of debt relief. Although both this study and Kokotsis' utilized the same method to identify debt-related commitments, Kokotsis' study generated 13 debt-related commitments over an eight-year period (1988-1995) while this study generated 20 debt-related commitments over a four-year period (1996-1999). The fact that the present study generated nearly twice as many commitments in half the amount of time suggests one of two things: either the summits became more successful at reaching agreement or a more liberal interpretation of commitment identification was used. Similar discrepancies were evidenced in assessing compliance. Kokotsis' study found that Canada and the United States had a combined debt compliance score of 73%, with Canada recording a perfect score of 100% and the United States scoring 46%.2 In the present study, Canada and the United States averaged a lower combined debt-compliance score of 64.5%, with the United States averaging 71% and Canada only 58%.3 Once again, this could be due to one of two things: either Canada and the United States have become less successful at implementing debt-relief commitments or a more strict measure of compliance assessment was employed (the latter being more plausible given the significance and success of the HIPC initiatives in recent years). In addition to these interpretive issues, the results of this study are also inevitably affected by specific time and research constraints. Kokotsis' research spanned four years and relied heavily on executive interviews with government and policy officials while the research on this paper was conducted in three months, relying heavily on government and international organization websites. Kokotsis examined compliance for all identifiable commitments whereas this study examined compliance for only the most significant commitments in each year. Hence, it may be the case that the lower compliance scores generated in this study are due to a lack of available research resources in addition to a stricter interpretation of compliance assessment. Therefore, given the presence of the following outliers-differing methodological interpretations, stricter measures of compliance assessment, and specific research and time constraints-reliable comparisons between the results of this study and those of earlier works are not possible and therefore will not be attempted. What follows then is an in depth analysis of summit compliance from 1996 to 1999, directly testing theories of compliance and international cooperation in light of the four theoretical models expounded in the introduction.

To begin with, these empirical findings appear to support the general realist hypothesis that compliance by the weakest member of the regime, Canada (with an overall compliance record of 63.5%) is greater than that of the strongest, the United States (with an overall record of 58.5%).4 Upon closer examination, this realist argument fails to account for several striking trends, the first being that both Canada and the United States have positive compliance records. More important is that in one issue area-debt relief-the United States scores 71%, outranking Canada by 13%. Indeed in both debt relief and international trade, compliance levels are often similar or identical in certain years. In Birmingham 1998, for instance, both countries recorded an overall compliance score of 35% with their trade and debt-related commitments while in Cologne 1999, both countries scored 80%. Although compliance levels in the last two years were markedly consistent, there is considerable variation in compliance levels in 1996 and 1997. While this may be due in part to the lack of available research materials on the web, in assuming that this is principally not the case, it may be suggested that compliance for the United States has generally risen over the past four summits while compliance for Canada has remained stable at a relatively high level. American compliance scores for debt have increased progressively from 0% in Lyon to 80% in Cologne while its record on trade was more variable: 0% in 1996, 40% in 1997, 0% in 1998, and 80% in 1999.5 In contrast to the United States, the pattern of Canada's results were not consistent for the issue of debt relief, in that Canada scored 80% compliance in 1996 and 1999 and 0% in 1997 and 1998. On the trade front, Canada observed more stable compliance levels, scoring in the 70% to 80% compliance level range for all the summits except Denver 1997, where it scored a low of 40%.

The relatively high compliance record with debt-related and trade-related commitments coupled with the similarities between Canada and the United States in these issue areas suggest that the general realist theory of cooperation is not an adequate model for explaining the processes and patterns of summit compliance. Other factors account for these patterns. First, the fact that the implementation of debt and international trade Summit agreements occurs through governmental treasury and finance departments is significant. According to Kokotsis, "given that finance ministries have the most regularized communication through the G7 finance deputies process, compliance is generally higher with issues stemming from the finance ministries, followed by those issues arising from the foreign ministries."6 The high compliance levels in both issue areas evidence the fact that both countries possess well-established and clearly defined domestic implementation mechanisms, although given the context of this inquiry, a direct comparison between commitments implemented through these two departments is not possible. Hence, establishing a direct causal link between the level of domestic institutionalism in the two countries and their debt and trade compliance levels is dubious at best.

A second institutional variable that accounts for Canada's high level of compliance with debt commitments emphasize the link between domestic and international institutions. Both the department of Finance and Treasury possess well-established institutional links to international organizations like the IMF and World Bank, which are responsible for the implementation of debt-related issues. Since the G7 are linked to these institutions, they can set the agenda and secure agreements on the implementation of these issues. This institutional link was most prevalent in two of the summits: Lyon and Cologne. At Lyon 1996 Chirac invited the heads of the WB, IMF, UN and WTO to meet the G7 leaders and they issued a joint statement-the first such meeting of its kind.7 After Cologne 1999, the IMF held its annual meetings in Washington, where important progress was made on the implementation of aid programs. During the course of these discussions, the International Monetary Fund assessed Canada's economic policy and encouraged the government to increase its aid expenditures to move towards the longstanding target of 0.7% of GNP.8 It is not surprising that Canada's compliance with debt-relief initiatives was highest at these two summits.9 Although there is a direct correlation between linked domestic- international institutions in Canada and its overall debt compliance level, this is not true for the United States. There was no correlation between linked national-international institutions and America's compliance with debt initiatives, as is evidenced by the fact that compliance with debt initiatives increased systematically over the four years.10 Hence, while this second institutional variable accounts for debt compliance variations in Canada, it does not account for variations in the United States.

To account for American compliance levels, it is useful to examine the evolution and expansion of both the Summit's preparatory and follow-up phases. There is a direct correlation between the process of reform in the past two summits and the overall rise in compliance levels in both Canada and the United States. The focus at Birmingham 1998 was on the renewal of the summit process itself, the objectives being to achieve more informal discussions, lighter preparations, and shorter and simpler documents. This did not mean, however, that the G7 and G8 activity was reduced or simplified since Birmingham was preceded by more intense preparations than ever-with more specialist groups and other ministerial meetings.11 In contrast to Denver 1997, Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair limited the main summit agenda to three items. By setting two of these well in advance, the leaders prevented extra subjects from cluttering up the list.12 A major innovation for Birmingham was the series of meetings of foreign and finance ministers in London conducted a week before the summit on 8-9 May 1998 to prepare some items for the summit and dispose of others which did not need the leader's attention.13 These reforms had some effect on the overall level of compliance at Birmingham, although it is not clear to what extent since Cologne generated a higher overall level of compliance with both its commitments even though its preparatory process was not as successful as Birmingham's.14

The fact that American and Canadian compliance levels for Cologne were significantly higher than those for Birmingham suggests that factors other than institutional ones account for compliant behaviour in both countries. Iteration, the recurrent treatment of issues, accounts for the increase in debt compliance levels in the two countries during the last four summits. Leaders repeatedly noted in their communiqués that they would report back the following year on achievements reached in specific issue areas.15 This iterative treatment of issues tends to mirror the pattern of American compliance with debt relief.16 There does not, however, seem to be a correlation between the iterative treatment of issues and American and Canadian compliance records with international trade issues. This could be due in part to the fact that in each summit, the most significant commitments reached were not directly building on one another.

While patterns of compliance with debt issues tends to be accounted for primarily through regime and institutional variables, patterns of compliance with international trade issues are not. The findings in this study suggest that Concert theory variables primarily account for compliance with international trade issues, the most important being the direct political control by Summit leaders. This variable embraces the importance leaders place on international institutions and agreements more generally. Here the findings suggest that the higher the level of personal attachment by a leader to a particular issue area, the higher the level of compliance."17 This was particularly true for President Bill Clinton during the Denver Summit 1997. At Denver, Clinton decided to use trade relations with African countries as the focus of his agenda in addition to highlighting the strength of the U.S. economy and incorporating Russia formally into the G7.18 Even though Clinton was having a difficult time on various Congressional and personal issues at the time, the United States was still the most successful at implementing its Summit agreements at Denver. As Bayne points out, "for the first time, the summits showed themselves responsive to pressure from public opinion...but they seemed inclined to give legitimacy to views of 'civil society' without being sure whom they represented."19 While direct political control by summit leaders accounts for positive compliance levels, electoral uncertainties in participating governments accounts for poor compliance performance with international trade issues. Canada's poor compliance performance at Denver was in part due to the fact that, just prior to the Summit, Prime Minister Jean Chretien came off a shaky federal election victory.20

A second concert variable that accounts for high compliance levels in the last two summits is common principles shared by the leaders. Birmingham and Cologne had been marked by a shift away from the political right as Blair in Britain and Jospin in France followed Clinton and Chretien in North America. For Cologne, this leftward trend was pursued even more strongly in Europe, with Gerhard Schroeder as Chancellor in Germany and Massimo D'Alema as Italian Prime Minister. The G7 governments, taken together, were closer to the centre-left than at any time in the summit's history, completely reversing the trend to the right seen in the summit of the1980s and early 1990s. The political context for Birmingham 1998 and Cologne 1999 encouraged harmony among the participants.21 It made the leaders on balance more interventionist and concerned with social issues and thus ready for innovation at the summit.22 This political shift to the left accounts for why Summit leaders were more successful at reaching agreement and implementing them at Birmingham and Cologne in particular.

In sum, this study identifies the patterns and processes of compliance with trade and debt commitments in both Canada and the United States. The empirical findings suggest that no single theory on international cooperation accounts for either summit compliance in general or cross-country and cross-issue variations in particular. Compliance with summit debt commitments is higher due to the overall institutionalization of the G7 and important national and international institutional variables while compliance with summit trade commitments is primarily due to the direct participation of heads of state and common party allegiances. A separate factor accounting for the successful implementation of both debt and trade issues is the iterative treatment of recurrent problems, which according to Bayne, is the greatest contribution of the summits and the principle reason for their success.23

1 Refer to Table 4.5 in the Appendix.
2 Kokotsis, p. 181
3 All values are adjusted for levels of significance.
4 For the following analysis, all empirical results are adjusted for levels of significance.
5 Refer to Table 4.5 in the Appendix.
6 Kokotsis, p. 270
7 Bayne, p. 130
8 (
9 Refer to Table 4.3 and 4.5 in the Appendix.
10 Refer to Table 4.5 in the Appendix.
11 Bayne, p. 158
12 Bayne, p. 159
13 Ibid.
14 Bayne, p. 160
15 Kokotsis, p. 277
16 Refer to Table 4.3 in the Appendix.
17 Kokotsis, p. 278
18 Chretien and Clinton bring separate agendas to Denver, Peter Morton Washington Bureau Chief June 19, 1997.
19 Bayne, p. 171
20 Neville Nankivell, Global Economic Issues Likely to Get Short Shrift At Denver Summit. Financial Post, Weekly edition, Saturday, June 14, 1997.
21 Bayne, p. 157
22 Bayne, p. 158
23 Bayne, p. 194

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