EU, US to Hold November Summit in Portugal; Insurance on Agenda

By | August 17, 2010

The European Union and United States will hold a summit in Portugal in November, the EU and the White House said on Tuesday, offering an opportunity to rebuild ties strained by the cancellation of their last meeting.

The summit will take place in Lisbon on Nov. 20, on the sidelines of a NATO gathering, and involve President Barack Obama, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso.

The agenda is expected to focus on economic issues, including efforts to coordinate policies as both look to move on from the financial crisis, as well as on trade, security, nuclear non-proliferation and climate change, diplomats said.

“The transatlantic relationship is vital to global prosperity, and both sides are committed to cooperate in order to promote growth and jobs in their economies,” the European Union said in a statement.

“Presidents Van Rompuy and Barroso are looking forward to this opportunity to meet again with President Obama to reaffirm the transatlantic agenda and advance EU-US cooperation on issues of mutual concern.”

The White House also emphasized the economic relationship between the 27-nation EU and the United States, valued at more than $4 trillion, and said that both sides were keen to promote “strong and sustained growth” in their economies.

“The United States has no stronger partner than Europe in advancing security and prosperity around the world,” it said.

EU leaders will be particularly pleased that a summit date has now been fixed as the last scheduled meeting, in Spain in May, was cancelled after Obama said in February that he would not be attending, dealing a blow to EU pride.

EU diplomats said at the time that Obama had appeared unimpressed by a previous meeting with EU leaders, feeling it had not been particularly productive and that there was little point in meeting unless there were issues to tackle.

The cancellation of the May summit came at an unfortunate time for the European Union as it had just reshaped its leadership structure, creating Van Rompuy’s position, which was supposed to give the bloc more influence on the world stage.

The summit will be the first since the EU ushered in its Lisbon reform treaty, a charter designed to streamline decision-making in the bloc and give the region of more than 500 million people a political voice equal to its trading weight.

While the EU and the United States share many foreign policy goals — from preventing Iran developing nuclear weapons to tackling the economic crisis and combating climate change — they have not always seen eye-to-eye on economic affairs.

The sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone, sparked by fears that Greece could default on its debts, had a knock-on impact on U.S. financial markets, prompting U.S. concerns about how long it was taking for the EU to come up with a bailout mechanism for Greece and other troubled EU member states.

There are also differences between the two over financial regulation, with the EU pushing to impose tighter restrictions on hedge funds and private equity groups, as well as creating new regulators for banks and insurance companies, all of which could have repercussions for U.S. firms operating in Europe.

Trade issues are also sensitive, with an ongoing dispute between rival aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus, and both powerhouses keen to maximize their export potential as they look to grow their way out of the economic crisis.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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