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Jonathan Evans: US tariffs on steel

This week in Barcelona the European Council will gather to seek to build upon the Lisbon Process. At that meeting, we will be pressing for more action to be taken on deregulation, and for more liberalisation, ensuring that we learn the lessons of employment flexibility. There are those of us who have felt, ever since we have arrived in the European Parliament, that there is a lot of rhetoric in this place about free trade, but also a great deal of protectionism with Member States here in Europe.

The entire agenda in Europe of taking forward a uniform competition policy and bearing down on state aid is geared towards ensuring that we have free trade. In these circumstances, those of us who count ourselves as the best friends of the United States are hugely disappointed by the action that the US President has taken. It is not putting it too strongly to say that, in a sense, we feel betrayed by it.

I do not link this to our support for the United States following the events of September 11. The events of September 11 were so horrific that they should not be linked with any sort of agreement in any other policy area. But for those of us who have been pointing to the United States as an example of a deregulated and liberalised economy, it has been a shattering blow to see the way in which President Bush, faced with the difficulties that his steel industry is encountering, has gone for protectionism.

What is even worse is to read in the Financial Times today a justification of this action from Robert Zoellick, the US Trade Representative. I feel sorry for Mr Zoellick, whom again we would regard as a friend of British Conservatives, because I must say that article destroys any credibility that he had in terms of discussion of trade issues.

The US representatives watching this debate need to know that, while we may have heard from the usual suspects in terms of anti-Americanism, those of us who are friends of the United States feel very badly let down indeed.

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