The recent acceleration of progress toward dismantling economic barriers within the European Community should be topped by agreement on seven or eight more trade-related issues before the end of the year.
Britain's Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, will be looking for further liberalization initiatives that will facilitate trade in goods and services at the summit meeting of EC leaders in London this weekend. Mrs. Thatcher attaches top priority to the establishment of an unfettered, unified market and last month intervened personally when she wrote to other EC heads of government urging them to press for faster reform.Her actions achieved immediate results when EC trade ministers agreed on 12 new measures designed to reduce barriers to free trade between member states at a meeting in Brussels earlier this week.
When the heads of government and state of the 12 EC members sit down for their first working session Friday afternoon, the internal market will be top of the agenda.
Britain wants progress on trade issues to be seen as the major legacy of its six-month presidency of the European Community. The U.K. presidency ends at the end of the year, when Belgium takes over. But Mrs. Thatcher also is anxious to demonstrate the relevance of what may sometimes seem esoteric matters to the 320 million people who live in the community and to show that a free internal market means more jobs, stronger economies, greater safety and security, improved medical care and other benefits.
One of the most important areas of progress at the Brussels meeting of trade ministers was agreement on tougher rules against fraudulent goods. Customs officers are to be given greater powers to seize and destroy counterfeit products that, the EC estimates, cost the community some 100,000 jobs.
During Britain's presidency, agreement has been reached on 32 measures related to the internal market, and by the end of the year it seems likely that more would have been achieved than during any previous six-month period. An announcement is likely later today or Friday on liberalization of the community's insurance market, while agriculture ministers meeting in Brussels Monday and Tuesday are expected to make some progress on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. More headway on the deregulation of air and sea transport, two areas that have been dogged by internal squabbling, should come out of the EC transport ministers' council meeting later this month. Further liberalization of capital movements also is anticipated in the near future.
These matters all will be addressed Friday and Saturday by EC government leaders, who are expected to give fresh impetus to free trade issues. In particular, statements are likely on standards relating to broadcasting by satellite, and on public purchasing of telecommunications equipment.
Also on the agenda will be terrorism, immigration controls, drugs and acquired immune deficiency syndrome. EC leaders will be seeking ways in which they can work together to tackle the killer disease.
The Iran/Iraq war and the threat to merchant shipping in the Gulf are likely to be discussed at the summit, but no new initiative is expected to emerge.
While disappointed that moves toward establishing a single unified marketplace within the EC by 1992 may have slipped behind schedule, Britain
considers the launch of a new General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade round, renegotiation of the Multi-Fibre Agreement and the diffusion of trade rows between the European Community and the United States on steel and citrus produce major achievements during the term of its presidency.
But most of all, Mrs. Thatcher wants this particular meeting to be viewed as a people-oriented summit, where decisions made by heads of state and government are seen to have a direct beneficial effect on the welfare of the citizens of the 12 member states.