THE VERSAILLES meeting, like most of its predecessors, was a ringing semi-success. It's always a mistake to expect these meetings to produce much in the way of grand pronouncements. A summit meeting is very much a like a final examination in a college course. Most of the educational value is in the preparation for it. The procedure compels each of these seven politicians to focus, personally and carefully, on the domestic troubles of each of the others. That's not a bad exercise for them to undertake once a year.
There were two broad categories of disputes at the Versailles meeting. One sort had arisen from the perennial internal frictions and strains of the gigantic trading system that reaches from Europe across North America to Japan. Since these countries' economies are highly integrated, while their political lives are not, there is always going to be much exasperation among them over economic policy. The dollar will always be either too high or too low. American policy will always be either too inflationary or too deflationary.
The current deflation is, inevitably, causing more grief than any government can reasonably be expected to answer for. So the Europeans find it expedient to blame the Americans, just as Mr. Reagan finds it expedient to blame Mr. Carter. Versailles didn't produce a miraculous quick cure. But it served the useful purpose of reminding everyone around the table -- in particular the Americans -- that domestic choices have foreign consequences, and they impose limits beyond which no wise government goes.
The purely economic differences among the seven governments are serious, but not dangerous. There were other issues at Versailles -- those involving the Soviet Union -- that have more ominous possibilities. The divergence between American and European views of Soviet intentions was visible at Versailles in the continuing quarrel over the Siberian gas pipeline, and the terms of credit extended to the Soviets. At the NATO meeting in Bonn to which Mr. Reagan goes later this week, the same divergence will reappear in the debates over weapons and strategy. A few days' talk can hardly reconcile disagreements of this magnitude. But these meetings can do the next most valuable thing, by forcing people at the top of each gov= ernment to retrieve these unforgiving issues from their own technicians and specialists, and bring them into their own discussions. This kind of meeting becomes most useful precisely when the prospects for large public successes are least brilliant, and in this respect, halfway through Mr. Reagan's trip, so far, so good.