Summit site reveals bustling trans-Pacific trade Vancouver offers mountain beauty, lively commerce

April 04, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Nestled against th mist-shrouded mountains of the Coast Range and sitting astride the crossroads of Asia and North America, Vancouver is a scenic and fitting site for the first formal meeting of President Clinton and Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin.

The two world leaders are being treated to a panorama of extraordinary natural beauty and a view of the relentless growth of trans-Pacific trade in resources, capital and people.

Their visit will include a stroll among the towering Douglas firs that line the coast, a tour of the continent's foremost collection of American arts and crafts, a cruise through the bustling harbor where ships laden with Canadian grain embark for Russia -- and possibly even a few innings of an international exhibition baseball game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners.

In a restaurant in majestic Queen Elizabeth Park, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Yeltsin dined on local Dungeness crab, Pacific salmon, maple ice cream and blueberries.

But they took a pass on a parallel summit being held at the Marble Arch bar, a raucous local strip joint. It was featuring a strip-off between Miss Nude Russia and Miss Nude U.S.A.

In a city where business interests and ecologists clash constantly over commercial development and the exploitation of the region's resources, the summit weekend is considered a time to declare a two-day truce and compete peaceably for the world's attention.

Given the intense security precautions, it is unlikely that any protester will get within hailing distance of Mr. Clinton or Mr. Yeltsin. Very few ordinary Vancouverites will do so, either.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which coordinated security for the summit, sanitized the main meeting sites under the watchful eye of the U.S. Secret Service and Russian presidential security agents.

Streets and bridges are being closed for the presidential motorcades, as the Mounties whisk Mr. Clinton and Mr. Yeltsin around town in their bullet-proof and bomb-proof limousines.

Police have also demanded the sealing of all hotel room windows overlooking the Canada Place meeting hall, where Mr. Clinton and Mr. Yeltsin are to appear together today.

Throughout the weekend, those with commerce or a cause in mind will try to win the attention of the news-starved media throng.

Environmentalists will be joined by anti-abortion forces, evangelists and a Jewish group seeking freedom for convicted U.S. spy Jonathan Pollard.

And, as always, the merchants will try their best to cash in.

At the Marble Arch, construction worker Tom Roche, 21, took a break to join the large lunchtime crowd to see for himself what summitry was all about.

He took it philosophically.

"It's total opportunism, with the summit here and all," Mr. Roche said. "They want to milk it for all they can get. But that's the way it always is, eh?"

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