Obama Meets With EU Leaders on Trade

NATO summit meeting sidelines include talks with EU, reaffirmation of goals

After two days of meetings in Lisbon that began with NATO and included the European Union (EU), President Barack Obama covered a lot of ground and termed the meetings “extremely productive.”

Trade was on the agenda as Obama met Saturday with Herman Van Rompuy, the European Council president, and Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, in two hours of talks at the NATO summit setting—their first such meeting in a year. The two sides agreed, according to Reuters, to join forces to try to bring about a successful conclusion to the Doha trade negotiations scheduled for 2011.

Reaffirming a commitment made in Seoul earlier in the month to promote balanced growth and avoid currency imbalances, while recognizing the importance of fostering trade, the two sides issued a joint statement:

"We highlighted our commitment to reject protectionism as a response to the challenges our economies face. We reiterated our strong commitment to direct our negotiators to engage in across-the-board negotiations to promptly bring the Doha Development Agenda to a successful, ambitious, comprehensive and balanced conclusion. We recognized that 2011 is a critical window of opportunity and that engagement among all negotiators must intensify and expand to complete an agreement that will expand trade and open markets."

The talks had originally been scheduled for May, but was postponed. The short meeting at the NATO gathering included a discussion of the EU’s current economic woes, as well as Ireland’s precarious position.

Trade was not the only thing on the agenda. Obama also sought to gain support for the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, strengthen the NATO alliance, and thaw the distant relationship with Russia. Progress was made on all fronts, according to reports from UPI and Politics Daily.

The Associated Press reported a private meeting on Saturday between Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who told Obama he had set the proper tone for the Saturday session focusing on Afghanistan. Obama has said that July of 2011 is the target to begin pulling U.S. forces back from that country.

However, Obama also expressed frustration concerning the START treaty. Signed by him and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April, the treaty calls for a reduction in deployed nuclear weapons within seven years to no more than 1,550—a 30% drop—as well as inspections to ensure that targets are being met. The treaty has stalled in the lame-duck Senate, where 10 Republicans have said it should be postponed until the next Congress is seated.

Obama pointed out that not only Republicans from past administrations but also military officials were supporting the treaty. European nations are behind the treaty, as well; the foreign ministers of Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria, Latvia, Hungary, and Lithuania all appeared together at the meeting to urge the Senate to ratify the treaty.

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