- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2001

Whatever personal politics may divide them, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush have some important things in common: They share a passion for strengthening the U.S.-Europe relationship through trade, and they brush with the same toothpaste.
"They're going to wonder how you know that, George," Mr. Blair said at the Camp David retreat center about the American president's peak into his brushing habits. When it comes to public policy, though, both leaders are hoping to capitalize on the relationship the two countries have enjoyed over the years to promote stronger ties between the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement alliance (NAFTA). Though plans to give the trading pact a new start was not what made headlines after their meeting in Washington, both leaders are ready to put squabbles about beef and bananas behind them.
Breaking down trade barriers will be a good place to start. Two trade alliance meetings will serve as a forum for the strengthening of the U.S.-British partnership: The European Union will hold a summit in June and the World Trade Union will likely be meeting in November. The EU's meeting in Sweden, where Mr. Bush will meet with European leaders, could pave the way for a NAFTA-EU deal which would enforce cooperation in areas such as insurance and professional services. Mr. Blair has called for a political statement of intent to be created at this meeting, which would help resolve differences on trade disputes.
"This should then be reinforced by an EU/NAFTA commitment to go further within the World Trade Organization framework to break down non-tariff barriers," he told the Canadian parliament last Thursday on his way to meet Mr. Bush.
It is clear that Mr. Blair is working hard to serve as a bridge to Europe for the United States, and both leaders are committed to finding solutions to defense and trade disputes. While they might not have resolved them all in one sitting, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair will have the opportunity to swap ideas again in a few months. Next on the agenda trading shampoo brands in Gothenburg.

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