Canada At the Shamrock Summit

Reagan and Mulroney find hope for the start of "a new era"

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It was clear from the start that the "Shamrock Summit" in Quebec City last week would be more show than substance: a piece of political theater staged not so much to solve international problems as to create an atmosphere conducive to seeking their solution. From the moment that President Reagan, sporting a bright green necktie in honor of St. Patrick's Day, stepped off Air Force One at Ancienne Lorette Airport to the final handshake that Reagan and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney exchanged on the gray stone battlements of the historic Citadel, the meeting was as carefully choreographed as a ballet. Indeed, the two leaders reveled in the spotlight when they and their wives left their flower-bedecked box at Quebec City's Grand Theater during a Sunday evening gala and joined entertainers in a rousing chorus of When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.

The summit was a 24-hour exercise in amiability. Replete with pageantry and sprinkled with humor, the meeting dominated television coverage throughout Canada and pushed almost all other news off the front pages. It also accomplished its purpose in giving Reagan and Mulroney an irresistible opportunity to engage in the kind of personal politicking at which both excel. (While the men negotiated, Nancy Reagan toured Quebec City with Mulroney's vivacious, Yugoslav-born wife Mila, visiting the Ursuline Convent and stopping at a downtown restaurant for tea.)

The President had a platform at the summit from which he could charge the Soviet Union with arms-accord violations while demonstrating to America's allies that Canada is a strong supporter of U.S. military leadership. For , Mulroney, the summit provided an indication that his pro-American policies could pay off for Canada in everything from improved trade and investment to pollution control.

Despite all the blarney, Reagan and Mulroney managed to get some business done. They signed a Pacific Salmon Treaty, ending a 15-year dispute over the harvesting of the valuable food fish on the U.S. and Canadian west coasts. They initialed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, linking their two countries in law enforcement. They also noted that Canada will participate in the $8 billion manned space-station program planned by the U.S. for the mid-1990s. Canada is no stranger to space technology, since Ontario-based Spar Aerospace Ltd. built the mechanical arm used in the U.S. space shuttle.

The summit also tackled more controversial matters. Mulroney pleased the President--and the Pentagon--by committing Canada to pay 40% of the cost of a $1.3 billion program to improve and upgrade the aging Distant Early Warning line, a network of radar stations strung across the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic. Built in the 1950s, the DEW line radars are now virtual museum pieces. In their place, the U.S. and Canada will install 13 manned long-range radar stations and 39 automated short-range radars capable of detecting and tracking a new generation of low-flying Soviet bombers and even newer Soviet cruise missiles. The project, known as the North Warning System, is part of a more than $5 billion U.S. plan to modernize northern air defenses and safeguard the continent against attacks launched over the North Pole.

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