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3rd Mar 2024

Denmark proposes transatlantic marketplace ahead of EU-US summit

  • An unusually warm relationship, US media reports (Photo: EUobserver)

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish liberal prime minister, has unveiled an ambitious proposal for the world's two biggest economies to form a free trade zone.

During a visit to the US, where he addressed the Berkeley, University of California, Mr Fogh Rasmussen suggested the creation of a "transatlantic marketplace without barriers to trade and investment."

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"Let us not forget that the EU and the United States are responsible for two fifths of world trade. We are each other's largest trading and investment partners," Mr Fogh Rasmussen said in the speech focussed on globalisation.

As much as 85 per cent of US global investments in professional, scientific and technical services are placed in the EU, he noted.

"Globalization is a fact and we have to embrace it by going on the offensive both nationally and through international cooperation."

"Achieving the vision of a transatlantic marketplace will of course take time. Within Europe we have spent the last 50 years building an internal market," Mr Rasmussen added.

He also stressed that it would not be an "exclusive club" for rich countries.

At home the political opposition was quick to criticise the proposal, saying it risks turning global trade talks into bilateral co-operation.

"If one begins separate negotiations and arrangements with the US, it can be a threat to global negotiations", said Svend Auken, European political spokesman for the Danish Social Democrat party, according to Danish news agency Ritzau.

Trade is one of the issues on the agenda of the EU-US summit next week in Vienna.

Biking diplomacy

While facing decreasing political support in domestic opinion polls, Mr Rasmussen has secured a unique position in the White House.

He was invited to join George W. Bush in Camp David this week - an honour last accorded to a foreign chief two years ago – where the two leaders had a 10-mile bike ride through the Catoctin Mountain woods.

Under the headline "Diplomacy on Two Wheels" the Washington Post reported on the "unusually warm relationship that has developed between the leader of the free world and the head of a Scandinavian country of little more than 5 million people."

In February Denmark made headlines around the world, when Muslims took to the streets in giant demonstrations and burned the Danish flag – along with American and Israeli flags - in protests over the publication of 12 drawings of the Muslim prophet Mohammed in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

Denmark has deployed troops in Afghanistan and Iraq despite popular opposition which has sparked a group of citizens to go to court claiming that deploying troops in Iraq is against the constitution.

In the footsteps of Aznar

But Mr Rasmussen is not the first European political leader and ally to propose closer transatlantic trade relations.

Former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar suggested back in 2004 that trade barriers across the Atlantic should be eliminated from 2015.

Canada, the US and Mexico have already formed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the world's largest free trade area operating since 1994.

But an even more ambitious plan to set up a free trade zone including 34 countries in North- and South-America, the so-called "Free Trade Area of the Americas" has not come to fruition.

Instead, the US recently approached Brazil with bilateral offers of improved co-operation, while the leftist leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia have signed a trade agreement to counter the US-led drive to forge a Pan-American free trade area.

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