Europe is taking the initiative in setting the framework for its relations with the United States because the U.S. is having difficulties assuming its traditional leading role in the trade area, Jaakko Laajava, Finland’s ambassador to the U.S. told members of the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce at the Capital City Club downtown on April 2.

      President Clinton has not been able to convince Capitol Hill to grant him the traditional presidential authority to negotiate trade deals, and he has faced constant problems in summoning support from his own party to any trade initiatives, Mr. Laajava said. This situation has given the European Union (EU) the opportunity to take the lead.

      He explained that a plan to deter the American tendency toward unilateralism would be presented during the EU-U.S. Summit to take place next month in London.  The plan seeks to remove many technical barriers to the trading of goods, to eliminate all industrial tariffs on a most favored nation basis by 2010, to develop a free trade area in the services sector and to liberalize regulations affecting government procurement, intellectual property and investment.

      So far there seems to be widespread support for these goals, he added, except for the agricultural and audiovisual sectors.

      Mr. Laajava was in Atlanta for an unveiling ceremony of a sculpture in Piedmont Park honoring the Finnish long-distance runner Lasse Viren.

      He told the chamber members that he had visited Atlanta more than any other city in the U.S. outside of Washington, D.C., and New York.  He also noted that Georgia has the highest concentration of Finnish firms than any other state.  There are some 25 Finnish companies with operations in Georgia.

      For more information about the activities of the Finnish-American Chamber, call its president Warwick Johnston at (770) 457-8795.

by Mark Pierson