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Aznar calls for betterUS-EU trade relations

14 January 2004

WASHINGTON – Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar called Wednesday for the elimination of trade barriers between the United States and European Union.

Speaking to business leaders during his official visit to the US capital, Aznar said he wanted a plan to improve future trade relations between the US and the EU by identifying economic, trade and regulatory obstacles separating the two areas.

The outgoing premier’s trip is aimed in part at promoting a Plan of Action for improved bilateral business ties with the United States which were expected to be announced soon by Spanish trade authorities.

But the prime minister says he wants another plan written up within a year that would include improving trade relations.

That plan would call for the elimination of EU-US trade barriers in some sectors, including telecommunications and air transportation, by the year 2010, and the elimination of all trade obstacles by 2015.

Aznar, who is to stand down at the general elections, said he would work to maintain strong relations with the United States and break down transatlantic trade barriers after he leaves office in the spring.

Aznar made several references to his country’s emergence as one of Washington’s firmest allies.

He was expected to stress that point again when he meets later Wednesday with President George W Bush for talks in the Oval Office and during dinner with the president.

The Spanish prime minister has been in office since 1996 and has announced that he will not be running in 14 March general elections, making this one of his last official visits to the United States as premier.

He was due back in Washington to speak at a joint session of the US Congress on 4 February.

Aznar gave his personal pledge to remain committed to that goal well after he leaves office in the spring.

The prime minister, who arrived in Washington late Monday, is to spend two days in the US capital attending several economic, academic and political functions.

The talks with Bush were also expected to centre on the situation in Iraq.

Bush and Aznar, a strong US ally in the build-up to the war in Iraq and in post-war reconstruction efforts, have discussed developments in Iraq on several occasions, both in person and by phone.

One of their most recent talks was by phone the day former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was arrested.

Their meeting on Wednesday was also expected to touch on Bush’s participation Monday and Tuesday at the Special Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, Mexico.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news