Arthur W. Page Society

Democracy, Freedom, Economic Opportunity and Social Justice: That’s Worth Celebrating

G7 flags

The Bastille Day celebration attended by President Trump and President Macron brought back vivid memories of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, celebrated in Paris on July 14, 1989. I was there as a part of the U.S. delegation to the G7 Economic Summit, the 15th such gathering of the world’s greatest economic powers.

I recall the magnificence of the celebration of the French bicentennial, just 13 years after the American. In addition to the G7 heads of state assembled for the Economic Summit, another 23 country leaders attended the Bastille Day celebration in tribute to France and the democratic republic that had thrived for two centuries. I remember the flags of many nations parading down the Champs-Élysées as jet fighters streaked by overhead.

Two things stand out from the unanimous Economic Declaration of the G7 leaders, including French President François Mitterrand and U.S. President George H.W. Bush, to economic growth and justice:

1. The endorsement of the U.S. proposal, called the Brady Plan after U.S. Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady, to encourage indebted developing countries to implement market-based economic policies in return for bank debt reduction and International Monetary Fund and World Bank support.

2. A reaffirmation of the commitment to fight trade protectionism by adhering to the Punta del Este declaration, made three years earlier with the launch of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations.

The successful implementation of the Brady Plan and the completion of the Uruguay Round in subsequent years together significantly contributed to economic growth in the Third World that has lifted billions of people out of poverty over the past three decades. These two initiatives were conceived and accomplished largely by American leadership, working through global institutions in a spirit of cooperation.

My simple point: The post-World War II international order, which established the principle that enlightened nations would cooperate through the rules, organizations and institutions of international relations, has contributed immensely to peaceful coexistence, economic well-being and social justice, and must be preserved. The United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, NATO and the Economic Summits – all these provide mechanisms for cooperation and progress.

At the Arthur W. Page Society, a global professional association of corporate chief communication officers, we work to advance a commitment by the businesses we serve to create value, not just for customers, employees and shareholders, but for broader society as well, working in concert with governments, civil society organizations and international economic institutions.

So, as we reflect on the celebrations of American and French democracies observed over the past two weeks, let us also note, cherish and seek to preserve the institutions and the spirit of cooperation that produce freedom, opportunity, economic well-being and social justice for billions of people throughout the world.

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