FROM the first of the modern summits of the industrial nations -- at Rambouillet, France, back in 1975 -- to the just-ended conclave at Tokyo, the line between the reality of what was agreed upon and the hoopla surrounding the meeting has been sharp. That may not be surprising in an age dominated by the news media -- where ``photo opportunity'' becomes official event. Yet an honest appraisal of what a summit actually resolved is crucial.
Frankly, the Tokyo ``economic'' summit was again a more ``ceremonial'' and ``political'' summit than an economic gathering. Planners for next year's summit should begin to work now to reverse that order of priorities, given the increasing complexity and importance of the world economy.
As a media presentation, this summit, which will probably go down as the ``terrorism summit,'' earns fair enough marks. That's not all bad. It was useful to have the leaders from the United States, Britain, West Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and Canada meet face to face once again. The regularity of such gatherings has to be remarkable in the larger context of 20th-century history.
In matters of substance, a consensus on a broad range of issues was reached at Tokyo. The outcome was not the rousing success the US delegation claimed for it. A more modest reading is in order. Specifically:
Terrorism: Libya was condemned. A number of antiterrorist ventures were announced. Still, the US did not prod its allies into taking action against Libya, such as imposing sanctions.
Nuclear policy: The summit endorsed the free flow of information on such disasters as occurred at Chernobyl. But there was no agreement on a new monitoring program for nuclear sites.
Trade: The US found itself rebuffed by the refusal of its allies to begin a new round of global trade talks, as Washington had urgently sought. Rather, discussions are to be held later in the year looking toward trade talks.
Currency control: A new seven-nation working group was set up to coordinate national economic policies better, so as to stabilize currency exchange rates. But the French were calling for such intervention back in the 1970s. Getting diverse nations in Europe, North America, and Asia to actually coordinate their internal economic policies (and thus, priorities) appears highly doubtful.
The summit reached a broad consensus, but took no action that could have embarrassed any ally. Not bad, but more should be expected next year.