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Vermont contemplates increased trade with EU

SOUTH BURLINGTON -- The Vermont Council on World Affairs hosted a conference on European Union business investment in Vermont on Thursday, December 13 in South Burlington with Sarwar A. Kashmeri, a specialist in strategic communications for international corporations and a fellow at the Foreign Policy Association in New York City, in addition to Michael Quinn, the Vermont Commissioner of Economic Development, and Briar Alpert, the CEO of Bio-Tech, a Winooski-based life science instrument company. Although it may come as a great surprise to many, corporations within the European Union have invested more than $1.1 billion in Vermont since the founding of the organization, leading to the creation of 8,000 jobs in the state, mostly in hi-tech manufacturing sectors, said Mr. Kashmeri. This sum, which represents 79% of external investment in the state of Vermont, is meager when compared with the nearly $3 billion of European Union investment in New Hampshire, a sum that has led to the creation of 23,000 jobs in that state, said Mr. Kashmeri. The major corporations with significant amounts of EU investment include Bosch, Controlled Energy, KBA Printing, TSL Snowshoes, Lake Champlain Chocolates and Ben and Jerrys, said Commissioner Quinn. Mr. Kashmeri, a part-time resident of Redding, urged the room of business people and Vermont Council on World Affairs board members to think outside the box and develop creative methods to stimulate EU investment in Vermont. It is easy to sell to someone who is already buying from you, said Mr. Kashmeri. As an example, he cited the recent trend in Europe to replace incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs as a potential opportunity for Vermont manufactures to cater to this energy efficient and environmentally friendly market. He noted that Australia has already passed legislation banning incandescent bulbs throughout the country and claimed that European Union countries may soon follow suit, creating an even larger market for fluorescent light bulbs on the continent. If successful, such a law would reduce Europes CO2 emissions by 25 million tons of CO2 per year, and cut the need for 27 power plants. Europe represents a large market for Vermont products, said Briar Alpert. Only 1/10% of Bio-Tech sales are made in Vermont, he said, and if trade barriers can be loosened with Europe, Bio-Tech, a firm which already sells to many companies overseas, may well be able to boost international sales. Another proposal involved ensuring that EU shipping routes use the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia and pass through Vermont on their way to their final destinations in the United States. In order to make these channels of investment flow in the freest manner possible, Mr. Kashmeri proposed working with the Trans-Atlantic Economic Council to remove non-tariff trade barriers that account for a 3% burden on the $3 trillion per year relationship between the United States and Europe. These non-tariff barriers consist of legal restrictions, such as a European law that requires that all ships carrying food to be sanitized with certain chemicals, a process that US law deems unnecessary. The Vermont Council on World Affairs, founded in 1952 by Senator Warren R. Austin, is affiliated with the World Affairs Council, the largest international affairs non-profit in the United States. The Council has sponsored visits to Vermont by medical, educational and human rights delegations from Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and other countries. During a visit to Champlain Valley Union High School by an educational delegation from various Balkan nations, the delegates from the many nations engaged in a heated exchange upon viewing the schools world maps, and even began to redraw the borders on the map, said Taylor Bates, a junior board member of the Council on World Affairs and high school senior at CVU. The author of America and Europe After 9/11 and Iraq: The Great Divide, Mr. Kashmeri also addressed the need to sit down and re-negotiate the Trans-Atlantic Alliance that was created after World War II to ensure that EU-US political relations do not affect the further development of business relations. Political friction between nations does not always affect business relations, said Mr. Kashmeri, as he noted that since the Iraq War began in 2003, trade relations between the EU and US have actually grown. Thank God for business relations, said Mr. Kashmeri. Business people are able to see through a lot of things that others do not.

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