UK Official Warns Against US-Europe Trade Fight

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

London ( - British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has urged America and Europe to put aside squabbles on trade and unite on the search for a solution to the Middle East conflict.

During a speech to the Brookings Institution Wednesday, Straw highlighted the strong bonds between the United States and its European allies.

"America came to Europe's aid twice in 25 years and then stood by Europe for another 45 years as it struggled with Soviet totalitarianism," he said. "Equally, our immediate reaction to the attacks on your country on Sept. 11 was the same as if our own territories had been attacked."

Straw said transatlantic relations were "more important than ever" because of the potential impact on the Middle East situation.

Before leaving for Washington, the foreign secretary told reporters Europe needs to be more "relaxed" about disagreements on steel tariffs and such things as the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto Agreement.

"I think we get very twitchy about our relations with the U.S. because it's not a symmetrical relationship," he said. "The fundamental strength of the relationship between Europe and the United States is an enduring one. That is one based on the values of freedom and democracy."

Straw held talks Wednesday with Secretary of State Colin Powell and is scheduled to meet Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Despite Straw's pleas, steel tariffs levied by the U.S. government earlier this year - along with threatened European retaliation - continue to be a sticking point in transatlantic relations.

The 15 European Union nations moved a step closer to imposing retaliatory tariffs on the United States by unanimously approving the submission of trade sanctions to the World Trade Organization by the end of next week.

The move gives the E.U. the option of slapping tariffs on more than $300 million of U.S. imports next month.

The chair of the WTO's general council warned that the steel wars could spoil the next global trade round.

"If the US and EU don't have a shared sense of agenda, then the WTO negotiations won't move forward," Sergio Marchi told the London-based Financial Times.

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