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Thursday, 14 June, 2001, 18:15 GMT 19:15 UK
Bush and EU push trade talks
President George W. Bush and Swedish leader Goeran Persson
President Bush and Goeran Persson promise to push forward talks
US President George W Bush and European Union leaders have promised to redouble efforts to launch a new round of trade talks.

They hope to open the talks at the next World Trade Organisation meeting in November.

"We are committed to launching an ambitious new round of multilateral trade negotiations at the WTO ministerial meeting in Doha [Qatar]," the two sides said in a joint statement.

The statement was issued after President Bush met with Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, and Goeran Persson, the current EU chairman, at an EU-US summit in Gothenburg.

Boosting the economy

Mr Persson said that a new round of talks would boost the global economy.

Mike Moore, director-general of the WTO
Mike Moore has said a delay could put the trade system in jeopardy
"The main message is to go ahead with liberalizing trade to support and stimulate growth," the Swedish leader said, adding that the global economy was currently "in a more stagnant phase".

Last week the director-general of the WTO, Mike Moore, called for urgent changes to existing multilateral trade agreements.

He added that "failure to launch a new round [of talks] could also jeopardise the multilateral trading system itself".

Failed attempts

In March, a WTO meeting in Geneva to revive plans for a new round of global trade talks stalled.

This followed the abandoning of attempts to reach a new world trade agreement at the Seattle meeting in 1999.

Anti-globalisation protesters at Seattle
Mass demonstrations disrupted WTO attempts to forge a new world trade agreement
Mass anti-globalisation demonstrations disrupted the conference, which also revealed differences in approach between the US and the EU.

There was an even wider gap between both of these trading blocs and the developing world, which makes up the majority of the WTO's membership.

Trade ministers from the WTO's 140 members are set to meet in Doha to revive the negotiations.

Reaching an agreement

The EU and the US are world's two largest trading partners and an agreement between them would bode well for the talks.

"We will continue to work closely with the EU on starting a new round of world trade negotiations," President Bush told a news conference with Persson and Prodi.

Signs of cooperation between US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy also promise a smoother ride at Doha.

The two men successfully negotiated an end to a long-running dispute over EU banana imports in April - as President Bush pointed out at the news conference.

Avoiding confrontation

Mr Lamy has also said that the "two elephants" of world trade should avoid confrontation.

"We should use the telephone, not the megaphone," he said at the news conference.

The two sides still have some outstanding disputes, including EU fears that Washington is moving to block steel imports, European restrictions on genetically-modified food imports and an EU complaint to the WTO over American tax breaks.

An agenda

The EU and the US also still have to agree on an agenda for the new talks.

The EU wants to include new areas such as investment and competition rules, while Washington prefers a much more scaled-down agenda focusing on cutting tariffs and eliminating export subsidies on agricultural products.

In their joint statement, the two sides said a new round of trade talks would also take into account the concerns of poorer nations.

"The new round must equally address the needs and priorities of developing countries, demonstrate that the trading system can respond to the concerns of civil society and promote sustainable development," the statement said.

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See also:

09 Jun 01 | Business
China and US clinch WTO deal
08 Jun 01 | Business
World trade 'in jeopardy'
05 Jun 01 | Business
No progress at US-China WTO talks
02 May 01 | Business
WTO urges US to lift lamb tariffs
06 Apr 01 | Business
An end to multilateral trade?
11 Apr 01 | Business
EU and US end banana war
30 Jan 01 | Business
WTO heads for Qatar
27 Jan 01 | Business
WTO on the defensive
19 Mar 01 | Business
Protesters target Geneva trade talks
27 Mar 01 | Business
World trade talks stall
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