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The Diplomacy of Concert: Canada, the G-7 and the Halifax Summit
by John Kirton[1]

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Canada As A Successful Summiteer

These changes in relative capability have had important consequences for Canada in its G7 diplomacy. They have increasingly shifted Canadian attention away from the United Nations and Atlantic institutions toward those of the G7 (where the power lies and successful management has come). Moreover they have increased Canada's desire to make the G7 a collective success (especially as the G7 uniquely admits Canada as an equal in its own right to the institution's central management core). Within the G7, the decline of American pre-eminence and emergence of alternative centres of leadership, together with growing institutional capacity (in fixed membership, broadening agendas and expanding institutional strength) have enabled Canada increasingly to practice "the diplomacy of concert." More specifically, within the G7 Canada has increasingly succeeded in: (1) securing a presence as a full member of all effective G7 groups; (2) participating equally to assert Canada's distinctive interest- and value- based priorities, positions and program initiatives; (3) practicing coalition diplomacy with any other member as interests and the requirements of prevailing direct; (4) prevailing with these coalitions to produce the Summit's collective results; (5) and doing so in ways that produce popular acclaim at home. At one end of the spectrum formed by these five factors lies a pattern of diplomacy where Canada is present through United States support alone, relies on American initiative, supports American-led coalitions, and acquiesces in and adjusts to American-produced collective decisions, in ways the Canadian public and media recognize and dislike. At the other end lies a pattern where Canada is present and participating over American opposition, joining or initiating coalitions against America, and securing collective endorsements of some magnitude and durable meaning, in ways that are applauded at home.

The most visible element of Canada's diplomacy of constraint has come in its presence as an equal in all G7 fora. In contrast to its experience in the United Nations and Atlantic institutions, Canada secured a full, first tier, equal position in every component institution of a rapidly expanding G7 system during the first decade. Despite resistance from France, which hosted and controlled the invitation list for the first Summit, Canada asserted and achieved its desire to become a full member of the G7 Summit prior to the first gathering. Although Canada was not present in 1975, and individuals within the Canadian foreign ministry and U.S. Treasury argued against Canada's inclusion, prior to the meeting Canada had secured a promise from Henry Kissinger, on behalf of President Ford, that there would be another Summit, that the United States would host it, and that Canada would be included. Although American leadership was necessary for Canada's admittance, all other Summit members, especially Japan, supported Canada's inclusion. Thus as the G7 moved from an ad hoc gathering at the 1974 CSCE Stockholm conference, through Rambouillet, to become an institutionalized annual gathering at Puerto Rico in 1976, Canada's full membership was achieved. And despite persistent uncertainties on Canada's part, as prominent individuals, at times heading rival international institutions, call for replacement arrangements from which Canada would be excluded, there has been no sign since 1976 that any G7 member governments have sought Canada's downgrading or removal, or the G7's replacement or reinforcement by an institution in which Canada was not present.

Canada's first tier presence has been reinforced at the ministerial level, through a process completed in 1986. At the inception of the G7 the Canadian government's trade community, dominated by GATT-focused multilateralists, resisted the creation of the plurilateral Trade Ministers' Quadrilateral. Moreover influential individuals within the U.S. administration sought in 1980-81 to exclude Canada from this new forum in retaliation for Canada's introduction of the National Energy Program, But Canada became a charter member of the "Quad" as it began operations in 1982, and of the G7 foreign ministers' annual meeting at the September opening of the United Nations General Assembly (a forum begun in 1984). In 1986, at Italian initiative and with the support of James Baker, Canada secured membership in the new G7 Finance Minister's forum that first paralleled and soon replaced the pre-existing G5 of which Canada had not been a part. Since that time, as the G7 has spawned additional ministerial forums, Canada's inclusion has been automatic. At present the only elements of doubt about Canada's full first-tier participation are the practice of the United States, Japan and Germany to consult among themselves first on interventions in currency markets, and Canada's exclusion from such related, but non-G7 and hitherto ineffective bodies as the Bosnia Contact Group. From its first Summit, equal presence has been accompanied by full-scale participation. Canada has proven to be an unusually active participant in both the preparations for the annual Summit and in the discussions at the leader's table, an involvement that has contrasted sharply with far less vigorous or vocal members such as Japan. Canada has also enjoyed increasing success in shaping and setting the Summit's agenda. From the start Canada was assigned the lead among the G7 on issues of importance and particular national interest and capability, beginning with energy (which Pierre Trudeau broadened to include nuclear energy and nuclear proliferation) in 1976. Canada was active in pressing for the Summit to take up political-security issues, and quickly acquired a reputation for promoting north- south issues, from a sympathetic southern perspective. Canada was also among the Summit leaders in putting east-west political-security issues on the agenda, and, more recently, in encouraging the Summit to take up issues of democratic reforms and human rights in countries such as South Africa and the People's Republic of China (PRC). From 1985 onward Canada emphasized environmental issues, including such distinctive national interests as disciplines on the overfishing of high seas straddling stocks. Throughout, and most successfully at Tokyo in 1993, Canada has concentrated in the core economic domain on trade, and on using the G7 for promoting multilateral trade liberalization, initiating and concluding MTN rounds, reducing export subsidies and protectionism, and building strong multilateral rules- based trade institutions and regimes.

In advancing its interest- and value- based issues and initiatives, Canada has sought and found support from all members of the G7. The United States' position as the most powerful member and Canada's as the weakest, the shared North American perspective of the two countries, and American leadership in securing Canada's admittance to the G7, provide incentives for Canadian coalition diplomacy within the G7 to centre upon providing and mobilizing support for American initiatives. However there are relatively few occasions where such behaviour is evident, even at times when there is a high degree of political-ideological compatibility between Canada and the United States in juxtaposition to the other members.[23] Even in cases where the United States and Canada are tightly aligned, as in the effort from 1985 onward to have the Summit deal with and discipline agricultural trade subsidies, leadership has been shared between the two North American countries and Britain. At least equally evident has been the converse pattern, where Canada has secured American support for Canadian initiatives. At one of the earliest Summit's, when Pierre Trudeau suggested that the group discuss the world food situation, Germany's Helmut Schmidt refused, U.S. President Jimmy Carter spoke up in support of Trudeau, and the group accepted the Canadian proposal. More recently, in the lead up to the 1994 Naples Summit, the Canadians developed support in Washington for some trade liberalization and management ideas, which the Americans then adopted, amplified, and unveiled with little advance warning at Naples. While such American support is often an important cause of Canadian summit success, it is not a necessary condition. In Canada's trade liberalization thrust in 1993 the United States initially resisted Canada's proposal to use the Summit to secure and endorse a market access agreement that would lead to the long-awaited conclusion of the Uruguay Round, and bring the Quad ministers to the Summit as part of this process. Yet Canada persisted and ultimately prevailed.

Standard liberal-internationalist interpretations of Canadian foreign policy suggest two predominant patterns of Canadian alignment within international institutions: assembling coalitions of lesser powers to adjust the behaviour of the predominant and initiating United States; and mediating between the United States and a ranking rival, traditionally the United Kingdom. A version of the first pattern arose prominently during the years of the Reagan revival from 1980 to 1984 in the economic sphere, when, in the face of the soaring U.S. superdollar and high U.S. interest rates, Canada joined with all other G7 major powers in an unsuccessful effort to seek an alteration in U.S. macroeconomic and exchange rate policy.

Mediatory diplomacy has been possible from the start, since the Summit was created with two competing poles of leadership: the United States and France. However it was only during the government of Prime Minister Mulroney from 1985 onward that Canadian mediatory diplomacy aimed at Franco-American harmony flourished. Prime Minister Mulroney's efforts to bridge Franco-American differences at the 1985 Bonn Summit were more prevalent and productive than contemporary Canadian media accounts allowed. In the lead up to the 1989 Summit, Canada was assigned the task of mediating Franco-American differences over third world participation, and found a formula (ultimately rejected by the G-15), whereby India alone would participate on behalf of the G-15. However during the 1990's, as the Summit has become increasingly a process of compromise and consensus building among all of the more equal members and more leading poles, the fixed diplomacy of constraint and mediation has given way to simultaneous mutual adjustment on the part of most members and Canada as well.

Rather than being a supporter of American initiatives, or a mediator of Franco-American differences, Canada has increasingly been an advocate of positions based on national interests and distinctive national values, for which it assembles an ad hoc coalition of countries that change as the interests and issues vary. Within this fluid and free-forming array there has been a tendency for Canada to combine less with historic partners and powers - notably the United States, Britain and even France - and more with newer partners and rising powers - Germany, Italy and finally, Japan. The classic North Atlantic anglophone triangle of America-Britain- Canada has been evident primarily on trade liberalization issues, not only agricultural subsidies from 1985 onward but also the completion of the Uruguay Round in 1990 and 1991. On development, developing country debt, African issues, and broader north-south questions, there has arisen a Canada-Britain-France development triumvirate (often arrayed against the "banker" powers of Germany and the United States). The advent of President Mitterrand in 1981 has permitted the "francophone twins" of Canada and France to flourish on a host of political issues, notably east-west security in 1983 (with quiet German encouragement) and strong sanctions against the PRC over Tienanmien in 1989 and 1990.

As the Summits have matured, Canada has increasingly aligned with the three rising non-traditional partners of Italy, Germany and Japan, in coalitions that have excluded Canada's World War Two allies. Italy and Canada have been arrayed together as the status-seeking "outer two" against the "inner five" on membership issues, notably on the enlargement of the G5 Finance Ministers group in 1986 and of the Bosnian Contact Group in 1994. Germany, Canada and at times Italy (with French support in 1989) constitute the environmentalist vanguard of the G7 (most recently through the creation of the G7 environment ministers forum which Germany initiated in 1992, Italy continued in 1994 and Canada institutionalized in 1995). Canada and Germany have often been in the lead in pressing for East-West reassurance, as in Prime Minister Trudeau's peace initiative in 1983-4 and assistance to the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern European states since 1990. Despite signs of political support and functional co-operation in the early years of the Summit, the Canadian-Japanese G7 partnership has flourished far less than the dynamics of relative capability and foreign policy interest (notably on nuclear and security issues) would allow.[24]

Through this pattern of fluid coalition diplomacy and strengthening partnerships with rising G7 partners, Canada has been increasingly able to secure collective acceptance of its preferred positions and initiatives. Its first notable Summit success, on a regime to deal with aircraft hijacking at the Bonn 1978 Summit, reflected the logic of functionalism and Canada's historic issue specific capability strengths in civil aviation. Moreover, it was a relatively easy victory, in that it represented a collective response against a "common enemy" to the G7 and to the broader society of states. Yet from that foundation, Canada's successes have flowed more from Canadian power, Canadian and G7 interests and values, and broader political preferences for revising international order and the internal societies of other states.

The furthest extension of this transformation has come in two cases where Canada, essentially alone, has used the G7 institution to force high-level attention to its priorities and positions and secure collective endorsement of the essential core of those preferences. In the case of the 1983 Williamsburg Summit, Pierre Trudeau, with support from Francois Mitterrand forced an initially reluctant United States, supported by Britain to produce a separate political declaration and then to add to it the passage that adjusted the NATO position and provided a mandate for the peace initiative he subsequently undertook.[25] In the case of the 1987 Venice II Summit, Prime Minister Mulroney was again able to use the consensus norms, tight scheduling, and media expectations of the forum to secure his desired high level dialogue on South Africa, and a collective agreement on minimum G7 standards for the internal constitutional character of that country. The G7 steadily strengthened these standards in subsequent years. Taken together, Canada's increasing influence over the twenty years of its Summit involvement can be assessed by examining the performance of each of Canada's three recent long-serving Prime Ministers at their first Summit. At Puerto Rico in 1976 Pierre Trudeau secured Canada's permanent participation in the Summit (with the support of all but France), and a greater emphasis in the communique on combatting unemployment as well as inflation (in support of Britain and Italy). He joined with the others to block a U.S. proposal to collectively define objectives in east-west economic relations, a Kissingerian idea that reflected American doubts about detente and reinforced a hard line approach to the USSR. However Trudeau's efforts on energy were foiled by France, and Canada's views on north-south relations (specifically ideas about approaching the forthcoming Conference on International Economic Co-operation) did not inspire discussion. In return, Canada was induced to confirm its acceptance of the OECD investment code, perhaps as the price for membership in the G7.

In 1985 Brian Mulroney was considerably more successful. A Canadian initiative on north-south relations (the creation of a third lending window) was accepted by the G7. Canada and host Germany also secured, over considerable opposition, communique language on the environment, notably on acid rain. Canada and Germany also induced the G7 to establish an expert group on Africa. And Mulroney's mediatory diplomacy was applauded by Kohl, Mitterrand and Reagan as he sought to save the Summit institution from a threatened French withdrawal if they were forced to set a 1986 date, as the U.S. desired, for the launch of a new MTN round.[26]

At Naples in 1994, Jean Chrétien registered some real achievements, and suffered some disappointments as well. His colleagues agreed to a Canadian proposal to host a conference in Winnipeg to define an economic assistance package for Ukraine. He produced a formula for Russian participation at the Halifax Summit that the G7 and the Russians approved and that advanced the process of Russian association with the group. Together with President Clinton, Chrétien produced Summit agreement and communique language that declared the reform of the international financial institutions to be the centrepiece of the 1995 Summit. Canadian disappointments came on an issue of "presence," as Canada failed, along with Italy, to secure a seat on the Bosnian Contact Group, and on the trade agenda, as Canada's preferred process for managing the new trade issues was not endorsed in the communique. Over the past two decades the accomplishments of the G7 Summit, and Canadian diplomacy within it, have been sufficiently strong to secure public recognition and acclaim within Canada, with ensuing benefits for government approval ratings, re- election prospects, national unity, and Canadian pride. Despite persistent media and academic scepticism, mass public opinion has been strongly supportive of the Summit as an institution and Canadian involvement within it. In the spring of 1993 71 percent of Canadians thought the Summit meetings were important in giving leaders an opportunity to discuss problems and share ideas on how to solve them.[27] In the spring of 1994 72 per cent thought that "participating in the Summit gives Canada an opportunity to influence events in ways that are good for country."[28] These views commanded majority assent among all subgroupings of Canadians, although support was somewhat lower among senior citizens, the less well educated, poorer Canadians, and Quebecers. The consistency in the results from 1993 to 1994 suggests that public support endures regardless of the party or Prime Minister in power, or where the Summit is held.

Amongst the editorialists of Canada's elite daily newspapers in both anglophone and francophone Canada, the summit is also seen as a collective success. The editorialists of the Globe and Mail, in their concluding judgement about each year's Summit, give evaluations generally as high as those of the inside "sherpas" or outside academics. Moreover Canada's performance at the Summit is often rated a success by the editorialists of both the Globe and Le Devoir.[29] In these judgements, there is little language gap. In the two Summits Canada has hosted, under Pierre Trudeau in 1981 in Quebec and under Brian Mulroney in 1988 in Ontario, the marks are evaluations are particularly high.

This pattern of Canadian diplomacy and success at the Summit suggests that several factors produce a strong Canadian G7 performance. Overall structure is important - notably a more modest and thus co-operative United States, and the emergence of other capable countries willing to lead and with whom Canada is prepared to align. A second, institutional factor is the norm of consensus decisionmaking at a leaders-only summit with high public and media scrutiny, where agreements are personally produced or accepted by leaders and countries who expect that they will return next year. A third factor is Canadian leadership, particularly the Prime Minister's experience, willingness to ally with new and non-traditional partners, and above all self-confidence that comes from a relatively rapidly growing and politically unified country and a government and leader with high and rising approval ratings in the polls.

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