Canadian News

Clark steps out—Chapter 1

Robert Lewis January 22 1979
Canadian News

Clark steps out—Chapter 1

Robert Lewis January 22 1979

Clark steps out—Chapter 1

Canadian News

Robert Lewis

In Tokyo, Conservative leader Clark was still “Joe, Dare Desuka” —as in, “who is he?”—when Japan’s government and business leadership took their measure of the 39-year-old Albertan last week. In New Delhi, where it must have been Thursday of Clark’s timewarping blitz around the globe, the sizeup was a more conventional chore when Clark took himself off to a tailor to buy shirts and a new pair of slacks: his change of clothes was back in Bangkok, where luggage had to be ditched in a scramble caused by an ineptly-booked connecting flight. At $14, the slacks looked like a deal—and Clark thought he knew why: a stitched-in tag which read SUB-STANDARD. When Clark sought the meaning of it all, the proud tailor replied crisply: “That, sir, is my label.”

Avoiding a similar tag on the 14-day effort (this week’s drop-in centres: Jerusalem and Amman) to merchandise an international cut to the Clark look at home, has kept three aides hopping through time zones on seven different commercial carriers, including white-

knuckle Egyptair. Following the touchdown in New Delhi at 2 a.m., executive assistant Ian Green made a peace offering after spending two hours rounding up $100 worth of toiletries for the unkempt, irritated band of media survivors of the 14-hour flight. Turning people off, especially in the international arena where Trudeau has heft, is precisely what Clark dreads—the more so since last week’s Gallup poll showed the Liberals up (see box). Clark repeatedly downplays his voyage as a learning experience in countries unknown—to him. He professes at each stop to be “looking at” more issues and answers than there are stars over the Taj Mahal, which Clark’s dentist-like schedule did not include, although the moon was full over Agra.

In Tokyo, Clark revealed that he has a lot to learn about the world, on whose affairs even a Canadian prime minister spends up to 20 per cent of his time. He actually arrived in Tokyo expressing surprise that there were not more pagodas in the bustling, modern city of nine million people. Repeatedly he expressed dismay about delays in translation which, he complained, reduced his

interviews to an “arthritic ballet.” He flinched when a Tokyo-based reporter asked for comment on the struggle for Cambodia, explaining his “no comment” as a desire to avoid a statement that might be “wrongly nuanced.” Above all, to his hosts who had welcomed Pierre Trudeau in 1976, Clark came off as less secure and visibly less comprehending of the mysteries of the East. Not that the friendly Japanese, eager for secure supplies of Canadian coal, wheat and lumber, objected. At the foreign office the view is that Clark could indeed become prime minister of Japan’s seventh-largest trade partner (as of September, Canadian exports to Japan were $2.2 billion, imports were $1.6 billion). The affable Hiroshi Kitamura of the American affairs bureau notes that Robert Muldoon of New Zealand visited Japan in 1975, just months before he ended up as prime minister. “But I’m not making any prediction,” he added with a twinkle in his eye.

Clark took care of the predictions himself, as he tossed off frequent quips about his plans to be back in Tokyo next summer as the Canadian leader at the economic summit. On a staged-for-tele-

vision stroll through Hibiya Park, Clark even conjured up a vision of the prime minister’s residence in Ottawa as he admired a handsome guesthouse. “My driver wants me to win the next election,” he said, “because he is very taken with 24 Sussex.” In Japan, as a ranking industrialist noted, “no politician would say he is going to be prime minister. We don’t talk about ourselves. But it wasn’t offensive. It’s expected, even appreciated, from you North Americans.” Generally, the Japanese seemed happy that Clark had simply cared enough to come.

During his private talks, including 45 minutes with the busy new prime minister, Masayoshi Ohira, Clark came away with the humbling conclusion that transferring the lessons of Japan’s post-war economic miracle to Canada will be akin to growing cabbages in January, which they do in Tokyo. The homogeneous, industrious nation of 113 million thrives on career-long company paternalism and sublimation of individualism to the “national interest.” While

Japan has “a game plan,” Clark observed, Canadians are “too individually oriented.”

There are signs, however, that the meagre portion of finished goods ex-

ported to Japan by Canada could increase if Canadian businessmen are willing to be patient and establish the personal contacts so relished there. “The Japanese,” says Toshiro Shimanouchi of the influential Federation of Economic Organizations, “will go for anything as long as it’s good and the price is right.” With his mind on $100 imported ties, $500 sports jackets and $2 Big Macs, he adds, “We’re even buying when the price is wrong.” Cracking a protectionist market like Japan, whose U.S.-conscious people are fascinated with brand names, will be a daunting challenge. As one example of Canadian opportunities, Shimanouchi cites yachts, skis and winter clothing. What about the predilection for brand names? “Well, create them. Put Canada on the map, or something.”

For his part, Clark was more interested in seeing the Japanese build jobproducing plants in Canada in return for guarantees on energy supplies. On the prospect of Canada’s first nuclear reactor sale to Japan, Clark struck out

zas most foreigners do, trying to anticipate the result of the elaborate consensus-making exercise now under way in Japan, which has a different nuclear system than the Candu. What Canada sells best to Japan, it seems, is geography. “Love Letter from Canada,” in fact, was one of the hits of the teen pop chart last year, despite the lyrics:

Tears run on my cheek remembering your voice looking at the Canadian sunset.

Thanks to the Canadian embassy’s ambitious promotion, the Japanese say that Canada these days is “image up”— a view based mainly on the Rocky Mountains in Clark’s constituency and the wide-open spaces which attract over 10,000 Japanese visitors a month. The Japanese, in fact, have an idyllic view of life in Canada that would surprise costconscious consumers and gripers. Tetsuo Kondo, an official of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) sees Canada as “a neighbor of the United States, with nice people. It is a big country and it has no problems.” The mere fact that Canada elected a prime minister who is “something of a playboy,” says Kondo, indicates there are good times in the land of the rising beaver.

Compared to both Canada and Japan, Clark’s second stop has monumental problems. There are 640 million people in India and more live in abject poverty than Canada’s population multiplied by 10. While Clark spent most of his time hobnobbing around Chanakyapuri (embassy row) and government offices off the Rajpath, he did catch a glimpse of the “other” India. The venue was the village of Sidhrawali, 60 kilometres southwest of New Delhi along a highway teeming with trucks, buses, daring cyclists, water buffalo and camel-drawn wagons. For Clark, the

warm welcome by 3,000 inhabitants, and stops at two local banks, a dairy coop and “schoolrooms” under the sun, afforded an ideal photo opportunity. At times, in fact, Clark appeared more conscious of the cameras than the harsh realities of village life.

One stop Clark did not make was at the sprawling white house from which former prime minister Indira Gandhi is fighting back against the Desai government. Clark claimed his schedule was too tight, but that was not Indira Gandhi’s view. “It’s not a major concern,” she told Maclean's. “But usually our government doesn’t like people meeting me and they say that it will be very embarrassing.”

Clark and Small Business Minister Tony Abbott, in fact, last week were the first senior Canadian politicians to walk the streets of New Delhi since India’s nuclear explosion using Canadian expertise in 1974 and Canada’s subse-

quent suspension of nuclear co-operation. Both sides have agreed to disagree on a fundamental split: Canada refuses to renew nuclear dealing unless India accepts exhaustive safeguards and inspections; the Indians maintain that nations with the bomb already are applying a double standard to nations of the have-not world and Prime Minister Morarji Desai pledges no more explosions. During his one-hour meeting with the embattled Desai, Clark—like Trudeau at the Commonwealth Conference in London in 1977—learned first hand that India wants to resume the historic close relationship with Canada that chilled after 1974. As the 10thlargest industrial country of the world, India ostensibly offers promising trade opportunities (now averaging $150 million in Canadian exports annually and $70 million in imports). But the Indians are fierce nationalists with mindnumbing ways, like the Japanese, of keeping foreign investment and products away. Clark chose to accentuate the positive, suggesting bilateral talks to increase commercial dealings. He was scooped, however, by Abbott, who arrived with a senior group of Canadian businessmen just before the Tory leader landed. And while the Abbott party arrived a day later than scheduled, at least they did get to India with their luggage.