The Hon. László Kovács, Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, and Robert Verrue, Director General for Taxation and Customs Union at the European Commission, reviewed current initiatives in supply chain security, the effects on international trade and the prospects for transatlantic cooperation. The bill proposed by the U.S. Congress requiring the scanning of 100% of containers entering U.S. ports became the focus of the discussion. Referring to the technical difficulty of this task, its negative impact on commerce, as well as on transatlantic relations, participants concurred that 100% scanning was neither practical nor cost-efficient given the available technology and the volume of shipments to the U.S. Commissioner Kovacs concluded that mutual recognition and bilateral cooperation is needed in addressing these critical security issues. The involvement of the private sector was also a key to developing a sound container security agreement. Participants included Mandy Bowers, Professional Staff Member, Committee on Homeland Security, U.S. House of Representatives; and Peter Verga, Principal Deputy, Homeland Defense, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the U.S. Department of Defense, who offered the U.S. perspective. Evelyn Suarez, a partner at the law firm of Williams Mullen moderated the meeting.

François ClemenceauIt has been 12 years since that the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) was replaced by the World Trade Organization. The change that can now be seen as a milestone marking the end of what can now be seen as an era— perhaps the good old days—in the modern history of international negotiations to liberalize trade. The GATT framework dated from the post-World War II Bretton Woods agreement to reduce barriers to international trade as part of a larger plan for economic recovery. It was an agreement, not an organization and its history can be viewed as three periods: initially, it focused on commodities and freezing existing tariff levels, then on reducing tariffs and finally, in a phase that consisted only of the Uruguay Round from 1986 to 1994, it extended the agreement fully to new areas such as intellectual property, services, capital and agriculture. Out of this successful round the WTO was born out of a feeling that it was now time to institutionalize trade negotiations in an organization.


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His Excellency Klaus Scharioth, Ambassador of Germany to the United States, outlined the priorities of the German Presidency of the European Union, which runs  January-June, 2007. He address a number of areas the Presidency will tackle, including the EU Constitution and enlargement, climate change, instability in the Middle East and global trade challenges such as intellectual property rights protections. He emphasized the need for a more cohesive transatlantic strategy on these and other global concerns and noted that transatlantic partnerships are vital to the success of the Presidency’s goals on these issues.