European Union leaders and President Barack Obama over the weekend made a point of stressing EU/US close ties after a low-key summit in Lisbon ended with a pledge to push for a deal in the Doha trade negotiation next year.
There were efforts to ensure the economic recovery dominated the engagement as European Commission chief José Manuel Barroso and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy met Mr Obama for 90 minutes on Saturday evening. The meeting, which was called in place of a summit Mr Obama cancelled last February, took place down the street from a NATO summit.
There was some discussion on Ireland’s preparations for an EU/IMF bailout, but the message on that front was one of calm.
“President Obama recognised that the EU has put in place a mechanism to address the situation,” said the US ambassador to the EU, William Kennard.
The leaders emphasised the combined economic might of the EU and US, with 800 million citizens and $1 billion in trade each day. The Doha negotiation aims to lower global trade barriers to stimulate economic activity. In a joint communique, the leaders backed renewed efforts to break the stalemate.
“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 recognised 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 leaders also reiterated their shared commitment to reject protectionism as a response to the financial crisis. They read statements to the reporters after the meeting but press questions were not allowed.
“This summit was not as exciting as other summits because we basically agree on everything,” Mr Obama said.
Mr Barroso has publicly complained that the trans-Atlantic relationship is not living up to its potential but said on Saturday that the engagement was “very intimate, friendly and focused”.