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Monday, May 18, 1998 Published at 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK


EU and US resolve trade dispute
image: [ Clinton and Blair hailing
Clinton and Blair hailing "a real step forward"

European firms are to be exempted from US laws prohibiting trade with Cuba, Iran and Libya following a breakthrough in negotiations between President Bill Clinton and the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Blair: "Developing what is already the most important bilateral trade relationship in the world" (22")
After a morning of talks in London with Mr Clinton, Mr Blair said they had "established at least a basis for a lasting solution to these problems".

President Clinton also hailed a new deal which could break down trade barriers between the US and the EU.

Compromise on sanctions

The trade sanctions wrangle centres upon US legislation which bars large companies from trading with Iran and Libya, and also seeks to prevent the passing on of private property seized from its owners in countries such as Cuba.

Mr Blair said: "We have avoided a showdown over sanctions with which we don't agree and we have done it in a way that at least provides a chance of a solution to the problem in the future.

"There is still more work to do but it is a real step forward."

At the meeting Washington agreed to grant exemptions to projects undertaken by EU companies in Iran and Libya.

[ image: Santer: US ban did not achieve its aim]
Santer: US ban did not achieve its aim
A similar indefinite exemption was granted for projects in Cuba that might be penalised under the Helms-Burton law.

President Clinton will have to go back to the US Congress to get changes to another part of Helms-Burton that can ban individual businessmen from entering the United States.

The European Commission President Jacques Santer, who also attended the meeting, expressed his satisfaction and said that the agreement had been struck after weeks of intense negotiations.

Santer: "The transatlantic relationship ... can now develop further" (36")
He said that the European Union had opposed the United States sanction laws "not only because we believe they are illegal but also because we believe they are counter-productive".

Trans-Atlantic economic partnership

Mr Blair also heralded a new trans-Atlantic economic partnership agreed at Downing Street.

He said that it would add momentum to the process of developing what was already the most important bilateral trade relationship in the world.

Mr Clinton said both sides would work to dismantle both bilateral and multilateral trade barriers in about a dozen areas, including manufacturing and agriculture.

But he added they would be looking, within those deals, for the highest standards of labour and environmental protection.

He hoped that this would prove an example to be mirrored in trade relations across the world.

The three leaders are travelling to Geneva for a gathering on Tuesday to celebrate 50 years of GATT - the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade - which over the years has contributed to liberalising world trade.

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