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Comparing Canadian and Japanese Approaches to the Seven Power Summit

Charles McMillian

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Success at a Summit is a function of many things the personality mix of the leaders, the international context (e.g., the 1979 oil crisis in Tokyo), domestic political issues (Thatcher's election campaign during the 1987 Venice Summit), and the capacity of political leaders to advance domestic issues through bilateral meetings and international forums. In politics, personality counts. Personal diplomacy still works.

The Toronto Summit is advantageously timed for Canada for many reasons. Canada's economic performance is second to none among the Summit countries. The US-Canada trade initiative is a powerful signal for trade liberalization in an atmosphere rife with managed trade and blatant protectionism. While various political issues remain important (East-West relations, arms control and disarmament, regional tensions in Central America, the Middle East, and Afghanistan) and while other topics may make the final communiqué (drugs, AIDS, Summit technology cooperation, terrorism), it will be the macroeconomic issues of trade, capital flows and the dollar that will dominate the agenda.

Japan's new Prime Minister, Noboru Takeshita, a veteran of five Economic Summits, will want to highlight that country's startling adjustment to the doubling of the yen against the US dollar, and its measures for domestic reform. From Bonn to Toronto, Japan has moved a long way in domestic reform and as usual has the growth statistics on its side. Japan has its own agenda items to advance more political strength for the Pacific Rim, more cooperative technology initiatives such as its $10 billion Human Frontiers program, and its race to substitute trade imbalances by new direct equity start-ups, especially in the US (Japan's overseas plants in North America will produce 2.3 million units, well above the 1.8 million cars presently exported from domestic plants.)

For Canada, as host and as a maturing member in the Summit Club, the Summit agenda is the national economic agenda-continued domestic adjustment and competitiveness, international trade enhancement measures (implying export growth and import growth), and fiscal restraint. The US-Canada free trade initiative is both the trump card on trade issues and the lever to advance Canada's interests in the new GATT round especially on agriculture, services, intellectual property, and dispute settlement procedures. Canada may want to highlight its stand on certain political issues, notably South Africa, or even provide a start for new initiatives in such areas as technology cooperation, education or the environment, where Canada's international standing has been enhanced by participation in the Francophone and Commonwealth Summits.

More broadly, the Toronto Summit is a happy showcase to the world of a Canada confident of itself and its institutions, aware of its global responsibilities and its challenges as a people. The Toronto Summit, like the thirteen before, will not solve all the major problems besetting the global economy. It will, however, drive home yet again the interdependence of the global economy and the need for wisdom and vision among our political leaders. Canada has shown that over the years we have been up to that challenge. Claude Bissell, I'm sure, would be the first to agree.

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