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Introduction: the Significance of the Houston Summit

John J. Kirton

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Preparing the Houston Summit

These failures presented those preparing the Houston Summit with an unusually large challenge, which they moved to meet with determination and innovation. At their first meeting held in Key West, Florida in January 1990, the personal representatives of the Heads (known in Summit parlance as "sherpas") reoriented the forthcoming Summit from that forum's standard focus on macroeconomic policy coordination, microeconomic adjustment, and North-South relations, to focus centrally on the new challenges of East-West relations, agricultural trade, and global environmental protection. At the second sherpa meeting, held in San Francisco, the Heads' political directors assembled four months earlier than usual to review thoroughly the novel political and security situation unfolding in Europe and integrate their conclusions into the main Summit preparatory process. By the third meeting, in Paris, attention turned to the deep divisions between an impatient United States and a reluctant European Community on eliminating agricultural subsidies, and between an entrenched United States and its enthusiastic Summit colleagues over far-reaching action to protect the world's atmosphere. And by the fourth and fifth sherpa meetings, held in Newport and New York (the latter eight days before the opening of the Summit), the specific issue of providing aid to the Soviet Union, left unresolved by earlier NATO and EC summits, was taken up by the seven-power Summit as a priority concern.

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