I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.
An EU-US summit is expected to take place during the Irish Presidency. Discussions are ongoing with our US colleagues to finalise arrangements, including possible dates and locations. EU-US summits take place on an annual basis. They provide an opportunity at the highest level of Government on both sides to review important issues of shared interest and concern, to arrive at decisions for joint or complementary work and to address issues where there may be differences between us.
This year's summit provides a good opportunity to restore stability and vitality to the EU-US relationship. It is fully acknowledged that the relationship has been through a very rocky period over policy on Iraq. There has been a noticeable improvement in the relationship over recent months. Our aim as EU Presidency is to build on this improvement and deliver a summit that reconfirms the importance of EU-US partnership for our citizens and for the broader international community.
Our reasons for doing this are simple. A co-operative and productive partnership between the European Union and the United States is critical to the prospects for long-term growth, stability and prosperity for our own citizens and for the broader international community. The EU and the US are each other's main trading partners and have the world's most important bilateral investment relationship, with the total two-way trade and investment amounting to approximately €2 trillion.
The EU-US partnership is also key to addressing many of the issues on the international agenda. The best way to restore confidence in the relationship is to focus on pragmatic co-operation on specific issues. On the political side the EU and US are working closely on the Arab-Israeli peace process and on wider relations with the Middle East region and on Afghanistan, Iraq and North Korea — to single out a few of the dossiers — as well as co-operation on issues such as non-proliferation and counter-terrorism. On economic and trade issues, too often the media focus tends to be on disputes rather than on areas of co-operation. For that reason, I believe it is important to put these differences into perspective and to concentrate on the positive economic agenda between the EU and the US, while effectively managing the small number of outstanding disputes, which account for less than 3% of overall trade.
Of course, it is not possible to be in full agreement on all issues but it is important that both sides try harder to manage such differences in a way that avoids damaging the overall relationship.
I very much welcome the positive views reflected in US Ambassador Kenny's article of 6 February 2004, referred to by Deputy Mitchell. The momentum to restore and revitalise the EU-US relationship is coming from both sides, which augurs well for a successful summit during the Irish Presidency. I agree with Deputy Mitchell that Ireland is particularly well placed to assist in promoting EU-US relations.
Transatlantic relations also encompass the EU's important relationship with Canada. An EU-Canada summit meeting is scheduled for 18 March and will take place in Ottawa. The Taoiseach and President Prodi will lead the EU side and will meet with the new Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. This summit provides an excellent opportunity to add momentum to this important relationship. The summit is expected to conclude a review of the EU-Canada relationship initiated under the Danish Presidency in 2002 and to launch a new trade and investment enhancement agreement.
A close transatlantic partnership is essential for prosperity and growth on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as the broader international community. As Presidency, we will work to reaffirm the strength, depth and significance of these relationships in a sprit of partnership.
Deputy Higgins asked for a list of the meetings which have taken place. There have been a number of meetings at political director level. I met Secretary of State Powell on 25 January when he attended the inauguration of President Saakashvili in Georgia and I will meet the Secretary of State again, together with Xavier Solana and Commissioner Patten, at the EU-US foreign ministerial troika on 1 March in Washington. I will accompany the Taoiseach to the EU-US summit, which President Bush and Secretary of State Powell will attend. In addition, a wide range of consultations will take place between the EU and US at official level, based on mechanisms developed over a number of years to foster co-operation across the full range of political and economic issues. The meetings held within this consultative structure will help prepare for the US summit and some of these scheduled for the Irish Presidency have been held.