Friday, July 11, 2008

Question: Must the Summit Address Solid Action Plans?

The Lake Toya Summit was held from July 7 to 9 by Lake Toya in Hokkaido, Japan. Beautiful summer days in a sub frigid forest resort had become extremely tumultuous. In reply to bitter criticism to the Summit by anti-globalism activists, I would like to ask the following questions and explore answers for them.

1. Is it a must to address solid action plans at the Summit?

Let me review the history of the Summit. In face of the Nixon Shock and the Oil Crisis in the 1970s, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, then-President of France, proposed a top-level conference to manage the global economy, which led to the first Summit at the Chateau de Rambouillet in the suburbs of Paris in November 1975.

The original purpose of the Summit is a candid discussion of global policy in an at-home atmosphere among major industrialized democracies. Therefore, the top leader meetings have not been result-oriented. In this respect, the Summit is similar to the Commonwealth Meeting.

Just after Soviet invasion to Afghanistan, Margaret Thatcher, then-Prime Minister of Britain, and Indira Gandhi, then-Prime Minister of India, expressed completely opposite viewpoints on Soviet threat each other, but the discussion was very friendly.

Anti-globalists and environmentalists criticize the Final Declaration resulting from compromise of major powers. But I would argue that obsession with results will inactivate candid discussion. I would rather remind them of antithetical but friendly discussions between Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi.

The Summit is a forum of candid discussion, not a conference to “produce” a treaty. You understand what I say, if you see this link.

2. Is it necessary to expand the membership?

Absolutely not! Fundamental concept of the Summit is a straight talk among top leaders without bureaucratic interference and out of daily hustle and bustle. This is one of the reasons why most of the Summit conferences have been held in silent villages rather than in capitals and big cities.

As I mentioned in Question 1, a forum of candid discussion on global policy in an at-home atmosphere should be held among like minded nations.

Also, in many cases, remote resorts are not well-prepared to accommodate a huge number of guests from all over the world. Moreover, substantial amount of preparation will be imposed for the conference, once Summit membership expands. This is no longer a forum of frank and at-home atmosphere.

3. Is the Summit a Conspiracy Club as anti-globalists remark?

Thorough examination of Question 1 and 2 will tell you that their assumptions are apparently wrong. Unlike their persistent advocacy, the Summit is not the place of decision making, but a forum of straight talk among like-minded members. Actually, anti-globalists are fond of blaming any intergovernmental conferences. Remember what happened at the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999. Anti-global leftists devastated the street, because the Seattle Conference was a “conspiracy” session among major industrialized nations and multinational corporations.

But remember, lefties! The Summit has never “produced” any treaties. All declarations have been non-binding.

Consequently, the Summit should be a membership of like minded nations. There is nothing wrong with this idea. Obsession with results and expansion of membership will increase substantial burden to the host city, and they are likely to lead to massive bureaucratic intervention.

Above all, it is important to reconfirm the real objective of the Summit. It should be a small and constructive forum of industrialized democracies to discuss global affairs. If necessary, world leaders can organize ad hoc meetings to include developing nations. Distortion from the foundation spirit will ruin the Summit.