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Sustainable Development and Canada at the G7 Summit

Pierre Marc Johnson and John Kirton

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The Development Achievements and Canada

Since its inception at Rambouillet in 1975, the G7 Summit has dealt with development as a constant component of its agenda. Indeed, international development, and closely related subjects such as NorthSouth relations, aid and debt, have stood alongside macroeconomic policy and trade as the subjects that every single Summit has addressed.[2]

Some of the Summits' most notable achievements over the past two decades have dealt with international development.[3] For example, the 1979 Tokyo Summit agreed on expanded cooperation with developing countries in energy, capital flows, food, human resources and technical cooperation. The 1981 Ottawa Summit signalled the willingness of the G7 to engage in a NorthSouth dialogue at the Summit level. In 1983, the G7 agreed to participate in UNCTAD 6 (the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development). In 1985, the Summit offered increased assistance to Africa, and in 1986, it endorsed a strengthened debt strategy and the eighth increase in capital for the International Development Association (IDA).

The Summit's concern with NorthSouth relations has also been reflected in the Summit process. Over the years, Summit members and the chair have consulted with developing countries in advance of the annual event, and briefed them subsequently on Summit results. This effort acquired a new dimension in 1989 when, just before the Paris Summit opened, French President François Mitterrand met with several major developing country leaders and hosted a dinner for them and the arriving G7 heads. More recently, in 1993, Japanese Prime Minister Miyazawa invited President Suharto of Indonesia to Tokyo to hold a bilateral meeting with him and one with US President Bill Clinton on the Summit's eve. The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also attended the Summit in recent years.

Together with Britain and France, Canada has been the G7 member most insistent on using the Summit to further development and NorthSouth issues. Indeed, Canada's invitation to join the G7, at Puerto Rico in 1976, was due in part to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's strong emphasis on the problems of developing and resource dependent countries, and Canada's special sensitivity, given its Commonwealth and Francophonie affiliations and nonimperial past, to developing country concerns. It is thus hardly surprising that when the leaders' personal representatives or Summit "sherpas" in consequential G7 member countries reflect on Canada's distinctive contribution to the G7, they recall its emphasis on the priorities of the developing world.

Canada's sympathy for, and success in, forwarding development issues at the G7 is evident in the two Summits Canada has hosted. At Ottawa in 1981, Pierre Trudeau, supported by France and the European Community, made NorthSouth relations the centrepiece. He further succeeded in having a new and sceptical President Reagan agree to modify his position on aid and on a World Bank energy affiliate, and to attend the forthcoming NorthSouth summit on global negotiations at Cancun. The central accomplishment of the 1988 Toronto Summit was an agreement among the G7 countries to reduce the debt of the poorest countries by one third, through the "Toronto Terms" of a partial writedown of principal, lower interest rates, or full repayment at commercial rates, but over a longer term.

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