Carter Dougherty writes in The Washington Times that The European Union is demanding that foreign companies be allowed to compete with the U.S. Postal Service. Europe also wants access to American markets for municipal water and waste services. It also will call for foreign companies to be given access to Small Business Administration loans. These demands will be formally presented to the U.S. government by the end of June. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will also present a list of U.S. demands to Europe later this year.

Harry Freeman, a Washington-based analyst of trade negotiations, says the U.S. market is already open to foreign companies. “What the European Union is going after is pretty predictable,” he says. “These are the clear bones of contention.”

Europe is renewing a long-standing demand that the United States allow foreign-owned ships to ferry lucrative cargo between U.S. ports, something that is prohibited by the Jones Act, which requires that these ships be built, owned and operated by Americans. A coalition of shippers, shipbuilders and maritime-state legislators has fought against efforts to change this law.

The suggestion that foreign companies be allowed to deliver U.S. letters seems certain to face equally tough opposition. “We oppose this idea, as does the Postal Service and the other unions,” says Sally Davidow, spokeswoman for the American Postal Workers Union.

World negotiations on services are governed by General Agreement on Trade in Services, created in the early 1990s. It lays down rules for regulating services that affect such agencies as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and state insurance regulators.

Opposition groups say the WTO negotiations could force cities to sell municipal utilities such as water and electricity and could put them in the hands of far-off corporations.Ruth Caplan, of the Alliance for Democracy, a group critical of the WTO, says, “From the mail we receive to the water we drink, the European requests show that our basic public services are under threat.”

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