Gorbachev seeks help--and gets some G-7 nations agree to offer assistance G-7 SUMMIT

July 18, 1991|By Richard O'Mara | Richard O'Mara,London Bureau of The Sun

LONDON -- Mikhail S. Gorbachev came before the leaders of the seven richest industrial nations in the world yesterday and asked them for their assistance and support for his attempts to rebuild the Soviet Union politically and economically.

They gave it to him in differing measure.

The assistance is to be technical and not inconsiderable, the support ready and enthusiastic -- but mostly the moral kind.

As expected, no great sums of money will pass from the Group of Seven -- the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

At least not yet.

"You are among well-wishers," John Major, host of the G-7's 17th annual economic summit, told Mr. Gorbachev.

The British prime minister added, "The challenges you face are formidable, the opportunities limitless. . . . We admire what you have achieved."

Mr. Gorbachev, at a precedent-setting meeting on the last day of the summit, was given a six-point assistance plan from the capitalist leaders.

It included associate membership for the Soviet Union in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and a wealth of technical assistance to help ease the turbulent transition from a state-run Communist economy to an open-market system.

A passage in the G-7's final economic communique pledged the leaders' "support for the moves toward political and economic transformation in the Soviet Union." It further stated that they "are ready to assist the integration of the Soviet Union into the world economy."

If Mr. Gorbachev was disappointed at not getting more substantial assistance, he did not show it at a news conference.

"We put forth our plan of action to our colleagues in terms of political . . . and economic reform," he said. "The ice has started moving.

"Today won't be the day to address the matter of large-scale transfers," he said, adding that he was committed to the reform program and would "proceed along the path we have chosen . . . away from the command economy."

There was no edge to his words. He seemed philosophical and resigned as he spoke of the Soviet Union's predicament.

"We do not consider ourselves an organic part of the world economy," he said. "We are on the margin. And we have come here and put forth a concept for remedying this. . . .

"We want to be properly understood."

Mr. Gorbachev's long-awaited presentation was described by more than one observer here as a "historic" encounter, and in the end the Russian did not come out of it very badly off.

He reasserted his association with the group, which he has been developing for the past three years. The expression "seven plus one" began to gain currency last night as Mr. Gorbachev went off to dinner with the other leaders.

Nor was the assistance granted meager.

Although associate status in the World Bank and the IMF -- invented just for Moscow -- will not give the Soviets access to IMF or World Bank funds, it does make available the bank's considerable technical expertise.

This includes the personnel who will teach the Soviets how to run a central bank, train managers, assess economic progress, improve the Soviet energy industry, make more efficient its food distribution network and generally help shape all the infrastructure needed by a modern economy.

The summit also pledged to Mr. Gorbachev to improve the terms of trade for Soviet products and to urge other international institutions, such as the newly created European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, to assist the Soviet economy.

Most important, however, was the G-7 commitment to a continuous relationship with the Soviet Union.

To that end the summit pledged that the chairman of the group -- Mr. Major for the rest of this year -- would visit Moscow this year.

The finance ministers of the seven were also to be dispatched to Moscow for regular consultations on Soviet economic and political development.

Before the arrival Tuesday of Mr. Gorbachev, the seven managed to work on the subjects of their agenda and to issue two communiques summing up their findings and the opinions and intentions of the group.

The economic communique came out yesterday. The political communique, which dealt with arms control, the United Nations and the Middle East, was issued Tuesday.

The economic communique included:

* A call for an all-out attempt to reach agreement this year on deadlocked global trade talks.

* A commitment to work toward creating "secure, stable worldwide energy supplies" and a call on nations "to improve energy efficiency and to price energy from all sources so as to reflect costs fully, including environmental costs."

* Praise for the "courage and determination of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in building democracy and moving to market economies" and a pledge to continue helping those countries through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

* Endorsement of a program of debt forgiveness for the poorest African countries.

Discussions on the environment yielded a surface unity on various topics, such as the need to protect tropical forests.

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