America's major allies had effusive words of praise for Ronald Reagan in public, but in private some weren't as kind, handing the president a series of defeats at his eighth and final economic summit.
The bickering got so intense on Tuesday, the last day, that the final negotiating session ran an hour longer than scheduled as the world leaders tried to settle their differences.The 14th annual economic summit between the United States, Japan, West Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada was not a total disaster for Reagan.
The allies did voice approval for his favorite free-market economic themes and the economic coordination process the United States has championed since the 1986 Tokyo summit.
But in the area of farm subsidies, Third World debt, aid to the Philippines and drug trafficking, the United States either suffered defeats or had to accept less than it wanted, reflecting perhaps the waning influence of a lame-duck president with only seven months left in office.
Little of this was visible on the surface. The leaders used the occasion of the public reading of the final communique to salute Reagan on his last foray into economic summitry.
"His leadership has been strong, his accomplishments substantial and his place in history secure," Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said on behalf of the other world leaders. "We shall all miss his warmth and wisdom."
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a philosophical soulmate of Reagan's, called the president "marvelous," even though Thatcher was one of the leaders who pushed Reagan to relent on his insistence for the complete phase-out of all agricultural subsidies.
On that issue, the United States was forced to settle for vague language in which the countries promised to seek ways to reduce subsidies, instead of the U.S. goal of eliminating them.
French President Francois Mitterrand, a Socialist who has often clashed with Reagan, was even more of a problem for the president during the three-day meeting.
Mitterrand objected to a Reagan initiative to have the countries cooperate more closely on the problem of drug trafficking, contending the seven summit nations did not have the authority to set up another international body.
"In whose names do these seven countries decide for the rest of the world?" Mitterrand grumbled. America settled for a call for an international study group with the participating countries to be chosen later.
Mitterrand also blocked Reagan's effort to single out the Philippines for multilateral foreign aid, a dispute that took up much of the final hour and was resolved when the leaders decided to add all heavily indebted developing contries to the list of those deserving attention.
On the question of debt for the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the United States knew coming into the session that it would have to accept a debt relief package because of heavy pressure from other countries to do so.