December 5, 2023

U.S. and Europe to Start Ambitious but Delicate Trade Talks

President Obama said that the first round of negotiations would begin in Washington next month between the United States and the 27-nation Europe Union. “The U.S.-E.U. relationship is the largest in the world — it makes up almost half of global G.D.P.,” Mr. Obama said, referring to gross domestic product. “This potentially groundbreaking partnership would deepen those ties.”

But France’s president, François Hollande, expressed disbelief at comments made over the weekend by the European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso. In an interview with The International Herald Tribune/New York Times, Mr. Barroso had criticized as “reactionary” France’s insistence on protecting its film and television industries as a condition of supporting the trade negotiations.

“I do not want to believe that the president of the European Commission could have made the statements about France, or even about the artists, that were made,” said Mr. Hollande, according to the Web sites of several French news organizations.

Mr. Hollande did not appear in a media tent here at the Lough Erne Resort when President Obama and Mr. Barroso — along with Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, and David Cameron, the British prime minister — announced the timing of the trade talks. French reporters said Mr. Hollande was busy preparing for his meeting later with the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.

Aside from trade, the two-day Group of 8 meeting was likely to be dominated by the crisis in Syria. Other financial issues on the agenda were measures to clamp down on tax evasion and the legal ruses used by multinational companies to limit their tax liabilities.

Mr. Cameron, the summit host, was by far the most effusive among the leaders who spoke about their trade ambitions. “We’re talking about what could be the biggest bilateral trade deal in history, a deal that would have a greater impact than all the other trade deals on the table put together,” he said.

A European Union-United States trade pact has been a longstanding ambition of policy makers. According to the European Commission, the executive arm of the 27-nation bloc, such a deal would allow European companies to sell an additional 187 billion euros worth of goods and services a year to the United States.

The angry French response highlights the sensitivity of the negotiations, which will aim to reduce trans-Atlantic tariffs and streamline regulations to stimulate economic growth in the United States and Europe.

On Friday, after a campaign by French artists and politicians, European Union trade ministers agreed to accede to France’s demands to protect the audiovisual sector. In his interview earlier that day, Mr. Barroso had said France’s Socialist government was advocating an “anti-globalization agenda” that was “completely reactionary.”

Mr. Barroso’s comments were described as “scandalous and dangerous” in a statement Monday from the French Socialist Party.

In addressing reporters on Monday, Mr. Barroso took no questions and did not comment on the French backlash.

Speaking in Brussels, Olivier Bailly, a spokesman for European Commission, said that Mr. Barroso’s comments had referred not to the French government but to those who had “made personal attacks” against him in the run-up to the negotiations. Mr. Bailly did not identify those concerned.

In response to the French objections, some Europeans worry that the United States will seek to exclude financial services from the talks, thereby reducing their scope significantly.

Mr. Obama acknowledged those concerns. “There are going to be sensitivities on both sides,” he said. “There are going to be politics on both sides. But if we can look beyond the narrow concerns to stay focused on the big picture — the economic and strategic importance of this partnership — I’m hopeful we can achieve the kind of high-standard, comprehensive agreement that the global trading system is looking to us to develop.”

Officials said Mr. Cameron had sought to make the Group of 8 an intimate meeting, with leaders seated around a locally produced wooden table in a room with a series of paintings inspired by the local countryside.

The setting, in a remote part of Northern Ireland, posed acute logistical problems for organizers but also for those aiming to demonstrate against an event, conducted amid tight security. Several thousand people were expected to join a march on Monday, but officials said numbers were likely to be lower than initially predicted.

“If you think it was difficult for you to get here, just imagine how hard it is for protesters,” said one official not authorized to speak publicly.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 17, 2013

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article stated incorrectly the timing of an interview with José Manuel Barroso. The interview was on Friday before trade ministers agreed to accede to France’s demands to protect the audiovisual sector, not after the agreement.

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Markets Jump on Hopes for European Action

Stock and bond markets rallied on hopes that the E.C.B. would cut the benchmark interest rate for euro countries as early as next week. On Wall Street, the Standard Poor’s 500-stock index, the Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq composite index all closed with gains of more than 1 percent, while the 10-year Treasury bond yield touched 1.645 percent, the lowest intraday level since Dec. 12.

Separately, the Dow Jones industrial average skidded more than 150 points briefly in mid-afternoon before recovering after the Twitter account of The Associated Press was hacked and a fake tweet about an attack on the White House was posted.

But outside of trading rooms, the European data were not likely to inspire any joy.

Besides pointing to continued decline in the euro zone economy, the survey of purchasing managers by Markit, a research firm, showed that Germany could be slipping into recession.

Germany has served as the main counterweight to economic malaise elsewhere in the euro zone, and a prolonged slowdown could delay a recovery on the whole Continent.

The Flash Germany Composite Output index issued by Markit fell to 48.8 in April from 50.6 in March, a six-month low. A reading below 50 is considered a sign that the economy is likely to contract. For the euro zone as a whole, the corresponding index was unchanged at 46.5, confirming that the region remains in a rut.

The German economy shrank 0.6 percent in the last three months of 2012. Another negative quarter would push the country into recession and present a problem for Chancellor Angela Merkel as her party campaigns to remain in power in elections this autumn. Meanwhile, the stubborn slowdown in the euro zone is likely to further inflame the debate about how much more austerity troubled countries in Europe can take.

Many political leaders are arguing for a greater emphasis on growth. José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said in Brussels on Monday that while countries need to continue cutting government debt and budget deficits, ‘’we need to complement this with proper measures for growth.’’

In Europe’s most troubled countries, there was little sign of a turnaround in growth. Economic activity in Spain declined 0.5 percent in the first three months of this year, the Bank of Spain said in a preliminary estimate Tuesday.

Still, markets cheered the pessimistic survey results because of expectations that they would prompt the E.C.B. to cut interest rates or take other action when its policy-making board meets May 2.

On Tuesday, the central bank of Hungary, which is not a member of the euro zone, cut its main interest rate to 4.75 percent from 5 percent. It was the bank’s ninth rate cut in as many months.

The benchmark French stock market index, the CAC 40, finished the day 3.6 percent higher, while the interest rate on France’s 10-year sovereign bond hit a record low of 1.706 percent. Other major European stock indexes posted gains of more than 2 percent while bond yields fell.

For France, the Markit output index rose to 44.2 in April from 41.9 in March, indicating that the pace of decline was slowing in the euro zone’s largest economy after Germany’s. But that tidbit of good news was clouded by a drop in the separate Insee indicator of the French business climate.

The decline in optimism among German purchasing managers might be the result of a deceleration in the pace of growth in China, which in recent years has become one of the most important markets for German products like automobiles and machinery. China has helped to compensate for weak demand in the rest of Europe.

‘’The last nine months have been very slow in our business,’’ said Joachim Schönbeck, a member of the management board of SMS Group, a German company that builds and equips factories to produce steel and other metals.

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Barroso Urges E.U. to Keep Cutting Debt

“Steadfast implementation of reforms is beginning to deliver results in terms of current accounts and regaining competitiveness,” the commission president, José Manuel Barroso, wrote in a letter to the leaders of the 27 members of the Union.

He sent the letter accompanied by charts that showed Ireland and Portugal as having benefited from rigorous turnaround programs, but that also showed countries including France, Italy, Belgium and Hungary as still plagued by high labor costs, compared with their trading partners.

He urged the European Union nations to remain wary of uneven economic performances across the bloc, lest the region continue to struggle with the imbalances that have contributed to Europe’s debt and economic crisis.

“When we look at productivity performance, we see that the very best member states are twice as productive as the lowest performers,” wrote Mr. Barroso, who as president of the commission is the top official in the administrative arm of the Union.

Mr. Barroso appeared to be delivering leaders a stark reminder that the problems that led to sovereign bailouts for Greece, Portugal and Ireland were still a cause for concern.

Mr. Barroso and colleagues like Olli Rehn, the E.U. commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, have been under a blistering assault from critics who say that enforcing strict budgetary targets to pay down debt and preserve the euro is creating a vicious cycle of low or no growth.

Mr. Barroso’s letter was evidently a response to such critics. He said that structural overhauls were contributing to a rebalancing of the E.U. economy, particularly where governments had undertaken the measures as part of their bailout agreements.

Ireland and Portugal had reversed trends in terms of their unit labor costs, which were now more favorable than before compared to their trading partners, according to the charts that accompanied Mr. Barroso’s letter. By contrast, according to the charts, unit labor costs in countries like France and Italy still were higher compared to those of their trading partners.

He also warned that a number of “states still need to invest more in structural reform to turn around their relative loss of competitiveness over several years.”

Mr. Barroso did acknowledge that there were deep and painful problems in pockets of the bloc, in particular in countries plagued by youth unemployment, and indicated that he would call for continued financial support to help address joblessness when he addressed E.U. leaders on Thursday evening.

The leaders will gather for what is essentially a check-in on the tougher budgetary surveillance they agreed upon over the last two years to combat the kinds of extreme debt and deficit problems in many countries that nearly brought down the euro currency union.

During the meeting Mr. Barroso is expected to show that the commission is willing to be flexible, by proposing that a number of states be given more time to meet their budgetary targets because of the lingering difficulties in the European economy.

Commission officials are prepared to recommend that Portugal, for example, be given one more year to meet its budget targets. And they say deadlines for meeting targets also could be extended in the cases of France and Spain, on condition that their governments could demonstrate progress in adopting fiscal overhauls.

The austerity debate could nonetheless produce friction at the summit meeting if, as expected, E.U. officials and Germany continue to emphasize regional financial consolidation, while the French, Italians and Spaniards continue to put far more emphasis on achieving economic growth.

President François Hollande of France is expected to lead the pro-growth faction, supported by the leaders of two big and struggling countries in Southern Europe: Mariano Rajoy of Spain and Mario Monti, who will represent Italy at the meeting despite having lost out in recent elections.

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Ireland Seeks Easing of Its Debt Terms

Ireland, whose banking crisis required it to receive a bailout of €85 billion, or $110 billion, by international lenders in 2010, is pressing for the right to ease the payback terms of billions of euros of debt it incurred in that process. It is also pushing other European capitals to stick to a promise made last year that the euro zone’s bailout fund could eventually be used to prop up struggling banks directly, relieving governments of that burden.

Ireland’s proposals are likely to come up when European finance ministers begin two days of meetings in Brussels on Monday.

The issue is significant because it could have a decisive impact on the ability of a fragile Irish economy to emerge from the crisis, officials say. And within European politics, a new relief package would be significant because Ireland is the only bailed-out euro zone country so far that in hewing to the harsh austerity terms of its rescue has shown clear, if early, signs of an economic recovery.

Since 2008 the country has come up with spending cuts and tax increases totaling 18 percent of its gross domestic product. But unemployment remains high and households remain weighed down with debt, a legacy of the real estate crash that was the main cause of the banks’ troubles.

And yet, visiting Dublin on Thursday, the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said that Ireland had “turned the corner,” proving that the international rescue programs put together by the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund “can work and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Ireland is pressing an issue raised at a European Union summit meeting last June, when leaders promised that the euro zone’s bailout fund would eventually be able to lend directly to troubled banks, once a more centralized banking system was in place for the 17-nation euro zone.

At the time the deal was seen as significant because it could alleviate the debt burdens that bank bailouts had placed on the governments of Ireland and Spain, among others. But in subsequent months, the finance ministers of Germany, Finland and the Netherlands sought to dilute the agreement, arguing that it referred only to new bank rescues and not to so-called historic or legacy assets.

In addition to direct help for its banks, Ireland is also pressing for longer maturity dates on its international loans. Mr. Barroso, asked by reporters Thursday about Ireland’s proposals, said that the European Commission — the administrative arm of the Union — “has been arguing for rewards to those who are the good performers in terms of the programs.”

He cited Ireland and another bailed-out euro member, Portugal, as the members “we have a positive attitude toward.”

Under Ireland’s definition, its “dead banks,” which were crushed by the weight of bad debt incurred in the property and credit bubble, would not qualify. These include Irish Bank Resolution Corp., which took over Anglo Irish Bank, and the Irish Nationwide Building Society.

But banks that still operate but have been recapitalized by the state could receive help.

Michael Noonan, the Irish finance minister, said there was “a distinction being drawn between the word ‘legacy’ and the word ‘retrospective.”’

“If you have a dead bank there are legacy issues, and we are not negotiating for anything broadly to be done for Anglo Irish-I.B.R.C.,” Mr. Noonan said.

He said that about €28 billion was invested in banks that were still trading, and that this was debt his government would like the euro zone bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, to assume.

Though no direct recapitalization of banks from that fund is likely to take effect before the end of the year, a promise that Ireland could receive such help could bolster market confidence. That might aid Ireland’s effort to emerge from the bailout program and return to the bond markets fully next year.

Alan Barrett, head of the economic analysis division at Ireland’s Economic and Social Research Institute, said there were several factors that could derail the government’s plans. These include a lack of domestic economic demand, the weakness of vital export markets including the euro zone, and the appreciation of the euro against the currency of Ireland’s neighbor and key trading partner, Britain.

And while Ireland’s ratio of debt to gross domestic product has been forecast as peaking soon at around 120 percent and then begin to fall, Mr. Barrett estimated that there was still a 30 percent chance that this would not happen. “We are basically of the view that this is a fairly unstable situation,” he said.

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U.S. Markets Slip After Europe and Asia Decline

Any gains would be a welcome relief after a string of declines over seven consecutive days in the broader market on Wall Street.

In early trading in New York, stocks continued their losing streak. The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index was down 15.65 points, or 1.25 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average was off 127.61 points, or 1.08 percent, and the Nasdaq index was off 37.71 points, or 1.41 percent.

The markets have remained volatile amid deep fears about budgetary problems in Europe and evidence of weak growth in the United States. But the yields on the bonds of the most indebted countries have eased a bit.

Gold, traditionally seen as an investment for times of uncertainty, spiked to yet another nominal record high of $1,671 an ounce, and the Swiss central bank took action to try to weaken its currency, another safe haven.

Analysts have cited unresolved issues in the new rescue package announced last month for Greece — which was meant to bolster the other weak euro-zone economies as well — as a main contributor to the renewed pressure in European bond markets.

The president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, announced Wednesday that he had written to national leaders urging them to “send an unambiguous signal of the euro area’s resolve” by speeding up enactment of the commitments they made last month.

That meeting announced a plan to include private bondholders in the rescue of indebted nations as well as extending the power of a European bailout fund, known as the E.F.S.F.

“The necessary technical work to implement the measures agreed on 21 July is already underway and will be completed as a matter of urgency,” he said. However, he noted that “implementation of some of these measures will also require actions by national parliaments,” which he said should be made “without delay.”

Many European parliaments, however, are already preparing for their monthlong summer break. In Rome, for example, the summer break starts Thursday and the body will reconvene Sept. 12.

Italy has been at the center of the latest storm, with its bond yields pushing higher amid investor fears that its weak growth and high debt levels may bring a full-blown fiscal crisis.

The Italian economy minister, Giulio Tremonti, traveled to Luxembourg for discussions with Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, according to Reuters. He also telephoned the European Union’s economic and monetary affairs commissioner, Olli Rehn, who said in a statement afterward that “the Italian authorities are doing what is necessary to put the country back on track for higher sustainable growth and ensanuring fiscal consolidation.”

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was to make a nationally televised address to Italy’s parliament later Wednesday. Analysts said it was unlikely that he would present substantial new measures, although Italian media reports suggested that Mr. Berlusconi might announce an intention to bring forward the target of balancing the budget, currently set for 2014.

The sense of movement appeared to bring some solace to the battered European bond markets. The Italian 10-year bond yield reversed an early gain and dropped 7 basis points to 6.06 percent as the difference in yield, or spread, between Italian 10-year bonds and similar-maturity German debt narrowed. The yield on 10-year Spanish bonds also swung back, falling 9 basis points to 6.19 percent.

There was some relief as well for Portugal, one of the more indebted euro area countries, which has already received an international bailout. It raised 750 million euros in an auction of Treasury bills, and its borrowing rate dropped to 4.967 percent, compared to a rate of 4.982 percent in a comparable auction held on July 20, The Associated Press reported.

The benchmark Euro Stoxx 50 Index was down 0.72 percent in early afternoon trading, paring some of the sharp early falls, and the DAX lost 1.7 percent in Frankfurt. Banks, again, led the declines and Société Générale, the large French lender, tumbled after reporting second-quarter results that missed estimates.

Bettina Wassener reported from Hong Kong. Christine Hauser contributed reporting from New York.

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Austerity Aside, E.U. Plans to Spend More

BRUSSELS — With the European Union’s 27 nations facing years of austerity, and Greece nearly bankrupt, now might be a good time for the bloc to prepare to spend less.

Instead, top E.U. officials went into battle Wednesday for an increase in spending under a seven-year funding plan worth about €1 trillion, or $1.4 trillion.

While the financial crisis has exposed the need to modernize European economies, the blueprint presented Wednesday suggested only a gradual shifting of spending away from farm subsidies, which account for more than 40 percent of the bloc’s collective resources.

In all, the European Union would spend about €971.5 billion from 2014 to 2020 — though, when all spending pledges made in that time period are included, the figure would reach more than €1 trillion, crossing that psychologically important threshold. The respective figures for the last period, 2007-2013, were €925.5 billion and €975.77 billion, though the proportion of the bloc’s gross national income would remain the same.

The proposals from the European Commission, the bloc’s executive, look certain to cause friction with some of the main E.U. paymasters: its biggest member governments.

Last week, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, who has called for a real-terms spending freeze, protested the construction of a new E.U. building, questioning whether the bloc’s institutions “actually get what every member of the public is having to go through as we cut budgets and try to make our finances add up.”

“We are proposing an ambitious but, at the same time, responsible budget,” the European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, said in a statement. “It is a realist proposal with which we can make a difference.”

Calling for a radical shake-up of the way that money is raised to finance the bloc, the European Commission proposed a financial transaction tax to replace the current system of contributions from member countries — something unlikely to be approved by national capitals.

It also wants to replace the special rebate that Britain gets on its contribution with a standard payment, rather than a calculation based on a formula that takes into account the difference between what it pays in and what it gets out.

But in terms of how E.U. cash should be spent, the ideas were much more timid. There would be only evolutionary changes in the agriculture budget, which, critics contend, distorts global trade and is often vulnerable to fraud or mismanagement. It is, however, strongly defended by one big beneficiary, France.

If the plans outlined Wednesday night were implemented, that share would ultimately shrink to about 36 percent.

The announcement Wednesday is just the start of a lengthy negotiation both with national governments and the European Parliament that will probably stretch out for at least 18 months.

But already the discussion has a familiar feel.

Despite years of complaints from countries that pay more into the budget than they get out, and a widespread acceptance that the European Union does not match its spending to its real priorities, the budget remains stubbornly immune to wholesale reform.

As long ago as 2003, the Belgian academic André Sapir described the budget as a “historical relic” that devoted too few resources to economic innovation and job creation.

His report was commissioned by the European Commission president at the time, Romano Prodi, but when it came up against strong vested interests, it was largely junked.

In addition to the issue of farm subsidies, there are also doubts about the effectiveness of the “cohesion” funds spent in the bloc’s poorer nation, and other “structural” funding for disadvantaged regions.

Though these would increase slightly, they would also be geared more to create employment.

The heart of the problem is that the budget has evolved over years and, as France has dug in over farm subsidies, others have fought for their own cash cows. In 1984, Britain won an annual adjustment to compensate it for the fact that it paid more into the bloc than it received. Since then, every British prime minister has defended the so-called British rebate.

“The budget was used as a political bargaining chip,” said Jorge Núñez Ferrer, an associate research fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies.

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Europe and Emerging Nations Vie to Fill I.M.F. Job

Mr. Strauss-Kahn stepped down late Wednesday after explosive accusations that he had sexually assaulted a housekeeper in a New York hotel room. Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner and others pushed to seek an interim leader for the fund quickly.

Within hours of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s resignation, politicians from across Europe closed ranks, appearing to coalesce behind Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, to succeed Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who is also French.

German news organizations reported that Chancellor Angela Merkel would back Ms. Lagarde as Mrs. Merkel publicly called for a European to assume the job.

“Of course developing nations are within their rights in the medium term to occupy the post of either I.M.F. head or World Bank chief,” Mrs. Merkel said,  according to news reports. “But I think that in the current situation, with serious problems with the euro and the I.M.F. strongly involved, there is a lot in favor of a European candidate being put forward.”

José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, echoed that thought. “It should be a European,” he said at a business conference in Brussels on Wednesday. Taken together, European members “are the biggest stakeholders in the I.M.F. Why now choose someone because he is not European? That makes no sense.”

Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers are scheduled to appear in a New York court Thursday afternoon to make another plea for his release from prison on Rikers Island, after a judge ordered him held without bail earlier this week.

“It is with infinite sadness that I feel compelled today to present to the executive board my resignation from my post of managing director of the I.M.F.,” he said in a statement dated Wednesday and released early Thursday by the I.M.F.

He added: “I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me.”

As they absorbed the news of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s resignation, officials from the rising economic powers said they should get to play a bigger role in choosing the I.M.F.’s next leader.

“In principle, we believe that emerging and developing countries should have representation at senior levels,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday, the second such statement in two days.

Brazil’s finance minister, Guido Mantega, said late Wednesday: “We must establish meritocracy, so that the person leading the I.M.F. is selected for their merits and not for being European.”

Mr. Geithner on Thursday urged that the selection process take place quickly and transparently, but he did not give any clues as to who the United States might support.

An I.M.F. official predicted some sort of compromise. “Presumably there will be some horse trading, given the push for a European and for a person from the emerging markets,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the situation.

One scenario insiders were discussing would allow a European like Ms. Lagarde to step in for the rest of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s term, which expires in October 2012, and then hand the reins to an official from an emerging market. That would give Europeans a level of comfort over the I.M.F.’s role in Europe’s debt crisis, especially if a default threatens Greece, or a new round of contagion hits Portugal, Ireland or other countries in crisis.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France spoke with Mrs. Merkel by phone Wednesday and will speak with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain on Friday about succession, said an official in his office who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The issue will also be on the agenda when President Obama and other heads of the nations known as the Group of 8 meet in Deauville, France, next week to discuss major global issues, the official said.

John Lipsky, Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s deputy, has been named temporary managing director and will also attend the Deauville meetings representing the I.M.F. While he had already announced plans to leave the agency in August, officials said he would  stay in the job until a new chief is appointed.

Gerry Mullany contributed reporting from New York, Katrin Bennhold from Paris and Keith Bradsher from Hong Kong.

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