SINCE the end of the Economic Summit here Wednesday, ``communiqu'e groupies,'' as one high Canadian official called ardent readers of these international statements, have been scouring the final 17-page ``Economic Declaration'' for its real meaning. ``You have to read between the lines,'' says W. Allen Wallis. He was the ``Sherpa'' for United States President Reagan, helping draft six such documents during annual summits of the leaders of the seven industrial democracies in the 1980s.
Here's what one Sherpa (a leader's top aide for a summit) and some other experts and officials see as the main achievements of the Houston summit, reflected in its communiqu'es:
The meeting provided the economic counterpart to the previous week's NATO summit. At both gatherings, the participants moved to provide political support for Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
All seven leaders are keen to see Mr. Gorbachev succeed with his efforts, as their communiqu'e put it, ``to liberalize and to create a more open, democratic, and pluralistic Soviet society, and to move toward a market-oriented economy. These measures deserve our support.''
President Bush told the press he already has sent Mr. Gorbachev a cable congratulating him on his ``landslide victory'' in his reelection as chief of the Soviet Communist Party at its Congress in Moscow this week. ``He's in the political arena and he did pretty darn well,'' Mr. Bush said.
The seven (West Germany, Japan, Canada, France, Italy, Britain, and the US) instructed the International Monetary Fund to lead ``a detailed study of the Soviet economy, to make recommendations for its reform, and to establish the criteria under which Western economic assistance could effectively support these reforms.'' The IMF is to report by year-end.
Bush denied this timetable was a way of delaying a political decision on providing aid to the Soviet Union. The Soviets, he said, ``need much, much more reform. And they're the ones that say this.''
Mr. Wallis comments: ``To the extent it is a stall for time, it is a good idea.'' Providing money to the Soviets now, before reforms, would be ``a waste of money.'' They need a market system, laws permitting and protecting private property, and proper financial incentives, he adds.
An economic study by the Commission of the European Community will report in October.
The communiqu'e paragraphs dealing with farm subsidies, a crucial issue for the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations, represent a compromise between the opposing ``hard lines'' held by the US on one side and the European Community on the other. Those stiff positions had created a negotiating impasse at a spring meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The communiqu'e, after noting the high cost of agricultural subsidies, says each of the seven must make ``substantial, progressive reductions in support and protection of agriculture.'' These cuts must deal with internal farm price supports, access to markets for farm exports, and export subsidies on farm products.
Though not quite so specific, the communiqu'e leaves open the possibility of turning import quotas on farm imports into tariffs which then could be gradually reduced. It mentions food security, a special concern to the Japanese. The original proposal of the US that export subsidies be completely eliminated was not in the communiqu'e. It was left to the trade negotiators to determine how much farm subsidies will be reduced.
The seven recommended that these negotiators use as the basis for their negotiations a text drawn up by Aart de Zeeuw, the chairman of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) committee negotiating in this area. That had been sought by the US and by the Cairns Group, 14 food-exporting countries that include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina.
``We are very pleased,'' said a Canadian official.
The seven did move ahead on some environmental concerns but not enough to satisfy environmental critics.
Bush called the environmentalist grading system for his administration ``absurd.'' He charged environmental extremists with not wanting the country to grow. ``They don't want to ... look down the road at the human consequence of men and women thrown out of work and families put into a whole new state of anxiety.''
The seven did indicate their support for the negotiation of a framework convention on climate change, that is, the greenhouse effect, to be completed by 1992. They also said they were ready to cooperate with Brazil on a comprehensive pilot program to counteract the threat to tropical rain forests. The World Bank was asked to prepare such a proposal for the next summit.