From Mr Michael Johnson
Sir: Further liberalisation of trade between the European Union and North America, ultimately perhaps with some form of free trade area, has a lot to commend it economically and politically.
However Andrew Marr reports ("Prodigal's return disguises lack of any new thinking", 11 October) that the Foreign Secretary or his supporters presented this proposal in Blackpool as "a reverse gear for European integration". If a new transatlantic trade agreement is seen as an alternative to further integration in the EU, that idea is a dangerous delusion for five reasons:
1. Transatlantic trade liberalisation, even a full FTA, would be restricted to the economic field, where EU internal policy is already largely integrated. It could not in any way be a counter to the pressures in next year's intergovernmental conference for further integration, which will be mainly in the defence, political and social fields.
2. The US would not discuss full-scale trade liberalisation with the EU unless it covered such areas as access to the European audiovisual market, telecoms and above all agriculture. France and some other member states would object strenuously. On the (unlikely) hypothesis that France did agree to early transatlantic liberalisation in these areas, it would exact a massive price in other areas of EU policy.
3. It is doubtful how far the US wants to go in this direction anyway. America would have to make important concessions on, eg, banking rights and its long-standing restrictions on coastal shipping. There seems no conspicuous enthusiasm among American politicians for a transatlantic FTA. In the multilateral negotiations …