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New EU Trade Commissioner Pledges to Boost US Trade Ties  - 2004-10-04

The incoming European Union Trade Commissioner has pledged to do all he can to boost trading ties with the United States, and has also stressed the importance of reaching a key trade deal with Latin America.

The incoming official laid out his ideas in a hearing before the European Parliament in Brussels. Peter Mandelson said it is a priority to overcome conflicts in U.S.-EU trade relations given the vast impact of the two trading blocs on the world economy

"We should find new ways to move forward by reducing the scope for conflict between our regulatory approaches and by forging closer cooperation," he said. "There is no more important partnership for the world's prosperity and security than between Europe and America."

Mr. Mandelson faces several major disputes between Brussels and Washington. These include state aid for rival aircraft makers Boeing and Airbus, as well as a U.S. system of tax breaks for American exporters.

On the Boeing-Airbus matter, Mr. Mandelson later told a news conference he is confident the European Union will have a strong counter-case if the United States takes a claim to the World Trade Organization

Under a 1992 agreement, The United States and the European Union are allowed subsidies for both companies. But Washington has now demanded that European governments stop giving loans that help Airbus develop new aircraft, and the European Union says any change in the agreement must also cover other U.S. government support for Boeing.

Turning to the southern hemisphere, the incoming commissioner said he hopes a deal can be reached to create a transatlantic trade block with the Latin American customs union called Mercosur, but there may be no quick solution.

"Although it may take some time to get back on track, since Mercosur has now presented an unacceptable offer," he said. "My preference will be for substance over speed as a general approach."

Mr. Mandelson takes office in November.