Chirac signals France would block trade talks
HAMPTON COURT, England Speaking Thursday at the end of an EU summit meeting that was meant to bring a new spirit of unity to the European Union, President Jacques Chirac of France broke with the rest of the Union and said he was prepared to block world trade talks.
Chirac's intervention came as the European Commission was due Friday to make a new offer to break the deadlock on world trade negotiations.
Chirac's remarks were the strongest indication yet that France could block the negotiations to reduce world trade barriers. It clouded the gathering of EU leaders at Hampton Court, near London, that Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain had convened in hopes of promoting a new liberalizing agenda of economic change in the EU.
Nevertheless, Blair claimed that the countries had reached consensus on a new, modernizing approach to their slow-growing economies that he said could now pave the way for a breakthrough on the EU's budget in December.
Apart from Chirac's comments, the informal summit meeting ended without the debilitating breakdown in relations that marred the last summit meeting in Brussels in June.
"Let me tell you this, it is a definite improvement since June," Blair said, at a press conference after the meeting.
Standing beside him, Jos