Unable to make substantial progress on concluding a global trade pact or fighting climate change, EU and US leaders came out of their annual summit with new deals aimed at boosting transatlantic trade and travel.
- Building a transatlantic single market
One of the summit’s key achievements was the signature of a transatlantic economic partnership pact, aimed at slashing remaining trade barriers between the two economic giants and harmonising standards in a number of key areas including intellectual property and the automotive, pharmaceutical and chemical sectors.
The agreement – one of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s favoured projects during her six months at the EU helm – is expected to give a 3.5% boost to GDP on both sides of the Atlantic.
It includes the establishment of a high-level ‘transatlantic economic council’ to monitor the implementation of regulatory agreements, which will be co-chaired by European Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen and the American Allan Hubbard, from the executive office of the president.
Although both sides expressed their commitment to concluding the Doha Round of global trade talks within the WTO, stalled since last July, EU and US negotiators made no progress towards resolving their differences on agricultural subsidies and tariffs.
- Facilitating transatlantic travel
EU and US leaders also signed the so-called “open skies” deal, replacing existing bilateral agreements between the US and member states. The agreement will remove restrictions on the number of flights able to operate the transatlantic route, allowing all EU and US airlines to fly between every city in the 27-nation bloc and the United States, as of 30 March 2008.
The EU expects that the deal will generate up to up to €12 billion in economic benefits and up to new 80,000 jobs in Europe and the United States over the next five years.
No agreement was reached on security-related travel issues, including the question of removing visa restrictions for all European citizens travelling to the US (currently 12 member states do not benefit from the US visa-waiver programme) and that of access to personal information on passengers flying to the US.
- Climate change
Although German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “a lot of common ground” had been found, no specific measures for reducing greenhouse gases were agreed to and the US continued to refuse to sign up to the European goal of cutting greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020 (EURACTIV 21/02/07).
The two sides did nevertheless agree that “urgent, sustained global action” was needed to combat global warming and committed to stabilising greenhouse-gas concentrations “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.
The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), currently being reviewed by scientific experts and governments in Bangkok, estimates that achieving this goal will cost between 0.2%-3.0% of world GDP by 2030.
The EU-US joint declaration also underlines the importance of developing near-zero emissions technologies, including biofuels and also nuclear energy in those countries that decide to use this option.
President Bush said that he would heed the advice of Chancellor Merkel better to include Russia in discussions over setting up an anti-missile defence system on the territories of Poland and the Czech Republic (EURACTIV 30/04/07).
“Our intention is to say to Russia that the system is something you ought to think about participating in…And therefore, we have started a dialogue…that hopefully will make explicit our intentions, and hopefully present an opportunity to share with the Russians, so that they don’t see us as an antagonistic force, but see us as a friendly force.”