Conditions for the summit were calmer than in 1995 or 1996. There had not been recent terrorist attacks, as in Chechnya before Halifax and Saudi Arabia before Lyon. There were no simmering rows between parties, as there were over luxury cars and fish in 1995 and over the Helms-Burton Act in 1996. Any row at Denver between Japan and the US over Japanese trade surplus was defused by a pre-summit agreement on deregulation in Japan.
Clinton, as host, was in a very strong position. He had been decisively re-elected and the US economy was in excellent shape. Even so, he did not contrive to make the most of this advantage, because of the choice of leading summit subjects. The American priority given to Africa, and Clinton's recent measures, are extremely welcome. But Congressional constraints mean that Clinton's best efforts fall short of what Europe, Canada, and even Japan already do for Africa. Similarly, on the environmental issues of climate change and a forestry convention, the Europeans (joined by Canada on forests) were able to go much further than the US could in making precise summit commitments.
The newly elected Blair had a good summit. His ideas for Birmingham went down well. He established close rapport with Clinton and Chretien and got good support, bilaterally, from Clinton on Northern Ireland.
Kohl, Chirac and Prodi were fairly subdued, all seeming preoccupied with events back home. They were a bit irritated by the tendency of the American media to contrast the dynamic US economy with the lagging continent. But they did not resist the idea of concentrating on employment next time, which fits in with the recent decisions of the Amsterdam European Council. Santer for the EC, together with the other European leaders, including Blair, naturally made the most of European achievements on Africa and the environment. But Kohl did not press as hard on the environment as he had at Houston(1990) or Munich (1992).
Hashimoto, as usual with the Japanese, tried to avoid trouble and largely succeeded.
Chretien was able to supplement his G7/G8 appearance with a good EU/Canada summit.
Yeltsin was pleased with his enhanced status, but has clearly not given up on getting this event called the G8 summit. The agreement on admitting Russia to the Paris Club, reached just before the summit opened, was a boost for Yeltsin and welcome to all.
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