I propose to take Questions Nos. 2, 4 and 6 together.
The Government attaches considerable importance to the European Union's relationship with the United States. As the holder of the EU Presidency, it looks forward to continuing its work to enhance that close transatlantic partnership. It fully acknowledges that the relationship has been through a difficult period, not least as a result of differences in policy on Iraq. However, it is significant that there has been a noticeable improvement in the relationship in recent months. As the holder of the EU Presidency, the Government is building on that improvement. It aims to hold a summit in June that restores stability and vitality to the EU-US relationship and reconfirms the importance of the partnership.
The EU-US partnership is central to addressing many of the issues on the international agenda. As the holder of the EU Presidency, the Government believes that the best way to restore confidence in the relationship is to focus on pragmatic co-operation on specific issues and to consult regularly and honestly on an ongoing basis. In this context, the Minister, Deputy Cowen, led an EU troika to Washington on 1 March last to meet the US Secretary of State, Mr. Colin Powell, and the US national security adviser, Dr. Condoleezza Rice. The outcome of the meeting was positive. A large number of foreign policy issues were covered during frank and constructive discussions. The meeting provided a strong foundation on which to build when the EU-US summit takes place in Ireland in June.
The Taoiseach took advantage of his St. Patrick's Day visit to the White House to exchange views on a number of international issues on the EU and US agenda, such as the need for counter-terrorism following the terrorist attacks in Madrid, as well as Middle East and Iraq matters. It is not possible to have full agreement on all issues, of course, but it is important that both sides consult and explain their approaches to the various issues on the shared agenda and manage any differences in a way that avoids damaging the overall relationship.
The summit will take place in Ireland on 26 June next. As the holder of the EU Presidency, the Government is working closely with its EU partners and the US authorities on the preparations for the important meeting. While it is too early to indicate in detail the topics for discussion during the summit, we expect that issues relating to foreign policy, economic and trade relations and other areas of shared interest will arise for consideration. Following the recent appalling act of terrorism perpetrated against innocent people in Madrid, we anticipate that counter-terrorism will be a key area of co-operation to be discussed with the US at the June summit. We anticipate that the Arab-Israeli peace process, wider relations with the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea and non-proliferation are some of the international issues that might feature in our discussions.
The media's focus on economic and trade issues too often tends to be on disputes rather than on areas of co-operation. It is important, therefore, that such differences are put into perspective. During its Presidency, Ireland is concentrating on the positive EU-US economic agenda, while seeking to manage effectively the limited number of outstanding disputes, which account for less than 3% of overall trade. It is expected that the EU-US summit will recognise the need to strengthen and widen the transatlantic economic relationship to include many aspects which affect our investment relationship and trade in goods and services. The summit is also likely to highlight the continued commitment and leadership of the EU and the US in the global fight against HIV-AIDS.
A close EU-US partnership is essential for prosperity and growth on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as in the broader international community. As the holder of the EU Presidency, the Government is working to reaffirm the strength, depth and significance of such relationships in a sprit of partnership, with the aim of delivering a successful summit in June.