WASHINGTON – President Bush is optimistic the United States and Europe can resume free trade talks, although he says it will "take a lot of will and a lot of hard work."
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso came to Washington for a Monday meeting with Bush in an attempt to jump-start the talks, which collapsed in July over deep differences on farm subsidies.
Before leaving for Washington, Barroso said "the moment of truth" for settling World Trade Organization negotiations "is fast approaching, and the U.S. holds the key to making a deal possible in 2007. The alternative, a delay of several years, would come at a high price for all."
The negotiations broke down in a disagreement over how much the European Union, the United States and other wealthy countries should reduce the farm subsidies and tariffs that poorer nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America say prevent them from selling their agricultural goods abroad.
The United States was criticized for refusing to cut the government handouts it pays American farmers. Washington partly blamed the standstill on the European Union for refusing to make deeper cuts in tariffs on agricultural imports.
Bush, speaking of the trade talks and of Barroso's visit, said Thursday: "I believe we can get a deal done. It's just going to take a lot of will and a lot of hard work to do it. ... Trade is the best way to help poor nations develop their economy so that people can realize the benefits of wealth moving throughout their society."
Barroso will also meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Supporters of a trade deal are eager to find a resolution to the impasse. The Democrat-controlled Congress will consider this year whether to extend Bush's authority to negotiate trade deals that can be submitted to Congress for simple yes-or-no votes without amendments.
The loss of the that "fast-track" authority, set to expire in July, would make it much harder for any treaty to gain congressional approval, without which any global trade deal would be meaningless.
Barroso is also expected to push Washington to sign onto international efforts to combat global warming.