Trade to Take Center Stage in Bush's EU Visit; Negotiations Stalled by Farm Policy Differences
Byline: Jeffrey Sparshott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
President Bush's visit this weekend to Europe will partly focus on reaffirming a common trans-Atlantic agenda, "issues like the global economy and trade," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said at a press briefing this week.
But trade issues increasingly have driven the 15-nation European Union and the United States apart.
Disagreements on farm policy have stalled negotiations for freer trade at the World Trade Organization, and recent disputes over biotechnology, a U.S. tax shelter and steel tariffs threaten to spark a trade war.
Pro free-trade businesses and academic groups hope that Mr. Bush can patch up some differences and lend momentum to the trade agenda during a meeting of leaders from the Group of Eight industrialized nations. The meeting begins tomorrow in Evian, France.
"I hope that he can engage in a dialogue that can open markets," said Sara J. Fitzgerald, a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a pro-trade think tank in Washington.
Trade relations are crucial to economies on both sides of the Atlantic. The European Union and the United States share the largest two-way trade and investment relationship in the world.
"We have to work together on the global economy; we have to cooperate," said Frank Vargo, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers.
Because of the disputes and differing policies, worldwide talks to liberalize trade are seen in the greatest jeopardy.
This week, WTO negotiators could not agree on a plan for tariff cuts in industrial goods, missing a May 31 target.
So far, the international body's 146 members have let slide every major decision-making deadline as they try to set the agenda for a meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in September.
The Cancun conference, in turn, is supposed to set the stage for an agreement by December 2004 that would help developing nations join the world economy and lower trade barriers for all nations.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan this week called on the G-8 leaders to step up their trade efforts, with an eye toward meeting the 2004 target.
Without an agreement, "the hopes of many millions of people will be dashed, and the developing countries will find it very hard to maintain their belief in an open-market system," Mr. …