1983: WILLIAMSBURG (28-30 May)
The failure at Versailles and the ensuing grave crisis in inter-Atlantic relations catalysed efforts on the part of the US and the EC to mend the rifts. In early August 1982, the EC Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce reached a preliminary agreement in which the Europeans agreed to self-limit their steel exports to the United States. This agreement was ratified by the EC Council of Ministers on 21 October.59 A further easing in the strained relationship occurred on November 13, when the U.S, after tortuous negotiations with the EC regarding trade and credit policies,lifted sanctions which had been imposed on the supply of equipment for the Siberian gas pipeline. Thus, the major disputes had been ironed out before the next summit was convened at Williamsburg.
New leaders attending the gathering -- Kohl for the Federal Republic, Fanfani for Italy, Nakasone for Japan -- tinted the summit with the slightly more conservative hue that would predominate over the next few years. Kohl also held the Presidency of the European Council at the time, while Gaston Thorn remained Commission President.
The international context in which the leaders met on this occasion was somewhat hopeful: economic recovery seemed to be taking hold,inflation had slowed in all participating summit countries (excluding Italy), and the decade of oil crises was terminated by OPEC's decision to decrease oil prices.60
As well, technical meetings of the pertinent ministers had been convened prior to the summit to work out agreements on most of the major items which would fall onto the summit agenda, in an attempt to promote a harmonious and cooperative atmosphere at the summit itself. Finance ministers met on the 29 April 1983. The trade ministers met on the same day, in the forum of the Trade Ministers' Quadrilateral which had been set up by the summiteers in Ottawa in 1981. In this context, the EC member states delegated their negotiating rights to the Commission, as it was the Commission which possessed exclusive competence in international commercial affairs. Most difficulties and disagreements were ironed out in these preparatory meetings. Thus, basic consensus had conscientiously been achieved before the summit began.
Although the Williamsburg meeting had been expected to concentrate principally on economic matters, namely fiscal and monetary affairs, Third World debt, East-West trade relations and protectionism, nothing substantial was achieved in these areas. The linguistic ambiguities in the final communique reflected the perpetuation of different viewpoints held by the Europeans and Americans on macroeconomic coordination and exchange rate policies. The issue of international trade liberalisation received acknowledgement,with a pledge from the leaders to "roll back" trade protectionism.
East-West trade was again a contentious summit issue, inflamed because of an American proposal which would give the U.S. the right to impose sanctions upon goods which U.S. subsidiaries in Europe were selling to the USSR. This was harshly criticised by the European Commission and member states, particularly in light of the seemingly hypocritical U.S. decision to resume negotiations for the export of U.S. grain to the Soviet Union.
The most important innovation of the Williamsburg summit was the political declaration on security, which enhanced NATO solidarity. Perhaps most importantly, the summit framework succeeded in associating Japan closely with the Atlantic alliance. The Community has no competence in NATO affairs and thus was not a contributor to the practical and substantive dimension of these discussions.
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