TOPICS > Politics

Background: Old Friends, New Problems

June 1, 2000 at 12:00 AM EDT

SPENCER MICHELS: President Clinton arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, Tuesday, completing the first leg of what might be his last European tour as U.S. President. At a formal ceremony at Lisbon’s Belem Tower, the President promised to work with allies to strengthen transatlantic ties, focusing on issues including the aids epidemic and the gulf between the world’s wealthy and the poor.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: We have a few stormy waters still to navigate, but we should do it with good hope, and we should do it together.

SPENCER MICHELS: Since the end of the Cold War, the issues between the U.S. and Europe have changed dramatically. New areas of contention have sprung up, often involving trade and even domestic laws.

For example, the U.S. is currently battling Europe over import barriers to bananas. U.S. companies want to sell bananas from Latin America to Europe, but they charge the European Union is blocking those sales. The U.S. said it will retaliate with punitive tariffs on European products like Scottish cashmere sweaters. Another continuing disagreement is over the use of genetically modified food, and the use of hormones in American beef. Many Europeans balk at the introduction of what they call “frankenfoods”, while the United States embraces the bioengineering revolution.

For their part, Europeans have criticized the U.S. for its use of the death penalty, which has been abolished by all European Union countries.

Interwoven societies

But the host of the summit, Portugal’s prime minister and the current European Union President Antonio Guterres, said he would not let such issues mar the proceedings.

ANONIO GUTERRES: I wouldn’t like those — i would say small, irritant problems in relations between the two parties — I wouldn’t like them to launch a shadow on what I consider an extremely important strategic partnership.

SPENCER MICHELS: Still, U.S. officials said that no progress was made on trade issues in talks at the summit.

Today, President Clinton arrived in Berlin, the first time since World War II that a U.S. President has visited that city as the working capital of a united Germany.

Here too, previously unthinkable issues were on the table-for example, child custody. The President was expected to air complaints from separate American parents denied custody of their children in Germany by German courts.

A German official explained the change in issues between the U.S. and Europe by saying that the “distinction between foreign and domestic policy has blurred as our societies have interwoven.”