European leaders float free trade agreement with US as talks on global deal languish

By Associated Press | January 25 2012

European leaders float free trade agreement with US as talks on global deal languish

DAVOS, Switzerland — British Prime Minister David Cameron backed the idea of a free trade deal between the European Union and the U.S. on Thursday, suggesting that a trans-Atlantic pact could deliver a much-needed boost to global commerce.

His call for a bilateral deal with Washington follows similar comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, and comes amid widespread admission among global leaders that the so-called Doha round of free trade talks is dead.

“Let’s get free trade agreements with India, Canada and Singapore finalized by the end of the year,” Cameron said, according to an advance copy of a speech he planned to deliver to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Global leaders meeting in the Alpine ski resort have traditionally repeated the mantra that the Doha round, launched in Qatar’s capital in 2001, is the best way to promote world trade.

“Last year, at this very forum, world leaders called for an all out effort to conclude the Doha round in 2011,” said Cameron. “We said it was the make or break year. It was. And we have to be frank about it. It didn’t work.
Britain’s prime minister cited bilateral trade deals the EU is exploring with India, Canada and Singapore, saying they could add €90 billion (116.5 billion) to the block’s GDP.

“Let’s also look at options for agreement between the EU and the US, where a deal could have a bigger impact than all of the other agreements put together,” he said.

His words echoed those of Germany’s Merkel. In her keynote speech at the forum’s official opening Wednesday, she told political and business leaders that there was much room for greater trans-Atlantic trade.

“The European Union and the United States are each others most important trading partners with a trade volume of over €600 billion ($776.5 billion) and the potential of our cooperation has not yet been tapped,” she said.

Any move to forge a bilateral deal between the two trading powers would be sure to anger smaller countries, who have demanded an ‘all or none’ approach to global trade.

source: AP