Tokyo Summit 1993: G7 haggle over future meetings

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The Independent Online
BEFORE the seven summiteers, or the 'insignificant seven' as they are becoming known here, even formally opened their G7 deliberations they were pulling in different directions about the one issue on the world agenda they could do something about: the future of their own summits. A draft text seen by the Independent, and due to be included in the final declaration when G7 leaders end their annual get-together on Friday, proposes to transform what has become a hugely oversized exercise into a 'more issue-related' and 'less ceremonial' one. But the paragraph has been put in square brackets - summit shorthand for not yet agreed by the sherpas who prepare the foothills of G7. This, diplomats said, was largely because of resistance by the Japanese hosts. The Japanese, far from scaling down the summit, want to institute a 'permanent secretariat' to oversee its operations.

European diplomats said there was a link between Japan's attachment to the G7 forum and the fact that it was not a member of any other significant elite club such as the P5 - the permanent members of the UN Security Council, where Tokyo aspires to a seat. 'You will see a link between their attitude to the future of the summit and how the discussions go about their Security Council seat,' said one European official.

Canada was backing the Japanese: it has little other way of making its voice heard in the world, said the official. Whereas Germany also has yet to win a permanent UN Council seat, it was not opposing the slimming of G7 'because at least it has its weight felt in the European Commission'.

The draft proposal is a watered- down version of suggestions circulated by the British - no great fans of the raised expectations high-profile summits tend to create - after last year's G7 in Munich. That occasion failed to produce any joy on world trade and economic growth and this one is likely to go the same way.

The British have called for the meetings to be restricted to heads of state and governments discussing the economy rather than, as now, delegations totalling scores each and dealing with every intractable issue under the sun. A British official recalled how G7, now in its 19th year, had sprung out of four finance ministers meeting informally as 'the library group'. He said there was another important reason why bringing back the exercise to its original 'fireside chat' faced resistance: 'We are dealing here with some governments of coalition,' he pointed out, where more than one party insists on being represented at any high-profile occasion.

Following next week's general election, Japan is expected to have a coalition government. It claims to share its G7 position with Italy, which has been led only by coalition governments since the Second World War.

Leading article, page 19

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