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G-7's Follow-Through

WHEN weighed against expectations, last week's economic summit in Tokyo was one of the more productive such gatherings in several years. Yet the true test comes in the follow-up, in which domestic political and economic interests can sink even the most well-intended summit deals.

On aid to Russia, the pre-summit expectation was a $1.5 billion package to help President Boris Yeltsin turn state-run industries into private concerns. President Clinton has sought $4 billion for the effort. The summit pledge: a $3 billion package.

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On prospects for a market-access agreement to restart the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the expectation going into the summit was extremely low. France vowed there would be no agreement in time for the Group of Seven summit unless the United States first dropped antidumping duties on French steel. Then last Wednesday, Canada, Japan, the US, and the European Community announced a pact to cut, and in some cases eliminate, tariff barriers in 18 key product groups. While the ag reement left several hurdles uncleared, it again raised hopes that the GATT round could be completed by year's end.

In other areas, the record was mixed. Leaders of the seven nations - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the US - agreed that their policies should focus on economic growth and job creation and also agreed to send representatives to the US this fall for a meeting to focus on job creation. But they did not buy Mr. Clinton's proposal to set specific growth targets.

The US and Japan negotiated yet another framework for dealing with trade friction that allowed both sides to claim victories, although it, too, leaves vague elements that could lead to disputes down the road. It fell short of Clinton's desire to specify numerical targets, which Japan opposes, although it provides for unspecified "objective criteria." Similar vagueness surrounded the agreement's impact on Japan's trade surplus with the US.

One of the first tests of follow-through comes today, when representatives from countries involved in the market-access agreement begin an effort to sell it to other GATT negotiators in Geneva.

Another comes in the US, where Congress must finish work on Clinton's deficit-reduction package, one of the factors that help bolster his standing in Tokyo.

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