LISBON (Reuters) - The United States and the European Union promised on Saturday to use their considerable economic weight to try to secure a successful conclusion to the Doha round of global trade negotiations in 2011.
President Barack Obama held two hours of talks with Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, and Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Lisbon, with both sides emphasizing the importance of their economic relationship.
They reaffirmed a commitment made at the G20 summit in Seoul this month to promote balanced growth and avoid competitive currency devaluations that can lead to global imbalances, and underlined the critical importance of bolstering trade.
“We highlighted our commitment to reject protectionism as a response to the challenges our economies face,” read a joint statement released after their first summit in a year.
“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 EU’s chief trade negotiator has said he expects Doha, which is aimed at lowering global trade barriers to stimulate economic activity, will be successfully completed in 2011.
The EU and United States, with a combined population of more than 800 million people, are the two largest trading powers in the world. The combined value of goods and services commerce between them is more than $4 trillion a year.
Saturday’s summit, which was originally scheduled to take place in May but was postponed after U.S. officials said there was no point in meeting if there was nothing to talk about, was billed by the EU as a high-level meeting of equals.
But coming after Obama had just completed a high-profile 10-day visit to Asia, and held on the sidelines of a summit of NATO’s 28 leaders, the short EU-US meeting lacked moment. The EU and U.S. leaders did not take questions from journalists.
“This summit was not as exciting as other summits because we basically agree on everything,” Obama said.
U.S. and EU officials said afterwards that the meeting had been warm and open, and said the economic crisis in Europe, where debt problems that swamped Greece in May now threaten to deluge Ireland and spread to Portugal, was discussed.
“There were discussions on specific countries, including Ireland,” U.S. ambassador to the EU, William Kennard, told reporters. “President Obama recognized that the EU has put in place a mechanism to address the situation.”
Earlier, during the NATO summit, Obama said the most important thing he could do for the European economy was to promote growth and jobs in the United States, saying that the quicker the U.S. economy recovered, the better it was for all.
Additional reporting by Timothy Heritage; editing by Jon Boyle