21st Jun 2021

Bush and Barroso back trade liberalisation

US president George W. Bush and European commission president Jose Manuel Barroso both reaffirmed their backing for a cut in world-wide agricultural subsidies on Tuesday (18 October), after the first visit of a commission president to the White House since 1989.

The White House talks came two months before a key World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting on world trade liberalisation, with both the US and the EU recently offering cuts in trade-distorting subsidies of up to 70 percent despite domestic resistance.

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The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to progress on the WTO’s "Doha Round" of trade talks, amid concern among EU member states such as France that the talks will result in income setbacks for national farmers.

"We talked about what it requires to get the Doha Round moving forward.", president Bush said.

"We had a good, frank discussion on that, and there's no question we share the same objective."

Mr Barroso at the brief press encounter after the talks reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to the WTO talks, but attempted to shift attention away from agriculture only - with the EU generally being seen as the most protectionist agricultural bloc.

"We very much in the European Union are looking forward for a success of those talks. We want it to have ambitious and balanced result, on agriculture, but not only agriculture. I want to emphasize this point - service policy is very important, so that our citizens can really see the benefits of globalisation.", the commission president stated.

He added: "We have now a trade relation of more than $1 billion a day. So together, we are 40 percent of world trade. So we have a common interest in opening up markets."

No real break through

But press reports say the top meeting in the White House, which was also attended by US foreign secretary Condoleeza Rice, US vice president Dick Cheney, and EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, brought no real breakthrough.

An AFX report refers to one EU official as saying that during the talks, which lasted for roughly one hour, both sides had referred to domestic reasons as reason for the absence of more progress on the issue.

An offer last week by EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson, to reduce trade-distorting subsidies by 70 percent was termed as insufficient by his US counterpart, the Bush administration’s trade representative Rob Portman.

But the commission sees itself under pressure from some member states led by France which do not want to see its mandate go beyond what EU leaders themselves agreed in a 2003 deal on agricultural spending.

Democracy spreading

After the White House talks, President Bush and Mr Barroso also highlighted the shared values which underpin the EU-US relationship – but different tones could be heard.

President Bush stated that the US "wants to work in collaboration" with the EU "to achieve some big objectives."

"One is to lay the foundation for peace by - by spreading democracy and freedom. And I appreciate your understanding, and thank you for working closely on that."

Recent research by the German Marshall Fund revealed that most Europeans back the idea of the spread of democracy – but the survey also showed that Americans and Europeans differ in their opinion on the use of force to achieve this aim

Mr Barroso said the EU and US policies were complementary. He stated:

"We share exactly the same values of freedom, democracy, and human rights, and we complement each other in pushing forward this agenda."

The US president last January visited the European Commission in Brussels as the first US president since Jimmy Carter.

He is said to respect Mr Barroso, who as a former Portuguese prime minister hosted the famous Azores summit which brought together the leaders from the countries supporting the US-led invasion in Iraq.


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