Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Strengthening US Ties with Europe Key to the Agenda

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Strengthening US Ties with Europe Key to the Agenda

Article excerpt

THE trade ministers of the world's 22 key trading nations meet in Singapore this weekend, and Mike Moore will get a clearer idea of whether or not recent signs of progress in the trade talks flatter to deceive.

John Weekes, a former Canadian Ambassador to the WTO, is optimistic. In part this is because Moore himself is more experienced. But Weekes is not alone in highlighting the vital role played this year by the chairman of the WTO's General Council, Stuart Harbinson, Hong Kong's permanent representative to the organisation. His expertise led only two weeks ago to a preliminary text of the ministerial statement to launch the new round which began to bridge, rather than divide, WTO members.

But there is more to the progress that is being made than the successful partnership between Moore and Harbinson. Even before the terror attacks in New York, officials on both sides of the Atlantic - including America's top trade official Bob Zoellick and Pascal Lamy, his opposite number in the EU - were becoming increasingly worried about the mounting strains on the transatlantic alliance.

Since 11 September, internationalists have seen an opportunity to try to pull America and Europe closer together. The trade talks are viewed as a vital component of this effort. Their importance has also been underlined by US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who has made it clear that he believes that the launch of a new trade round would help to underpin eroding global business confidence.

The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington have also strengthened the hand of those who believe that the industrial countries need to do more to help developing countries. A week before the attacks, Goldman Sachs' Peter Sutherland was warning publicly that the WTO was facing "the biggest crisis of its young life" and describing as "scandalous" the rich countries' response to developing countries' calls for more help on trade and investment issues. Such warnings are now being taken more seriously.

Others are admitting that the socalled "Washington consensus" of the 1990s, namely that the way to promote development in poor countries was primarily through corporate-led growth backed by rapid financial and product market and trade rule deregulation was too simplistic. …

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