CBI tells Blair to take Bush to task over tariffs

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Business leaders will confront Tony Blair over US protectionism when he addresses the CBI annual conference in Birmingham tomorrow.

Digby Jones, the director-general of the CBI, confirmed that he has received requests to quiz the Prime Minister over the behaviour of the US in the trade arena. "Quite a few members want to ask about what is happening to our trading and investment relationship," Mr Jones said.

The questions are aimed at influencing Mr Blair's talks with President George Bush, who begins a state visit to London on Wednesday. Among areas of most concern are steel tariffs imposed by the US, which were last week judged illegal by the World Trade Organisation; $15bn (£8.9bn) state aid for the airline industry; the "Buy America" policy for US government contracts; and the tightening of visa rules, making it harder for foreigners to work in the US. Mr Jones said CBI members were "feeling the cold wind of one of the periodic bouts of American protectionism".

Business leaders are concerned the UK has seen no benefit from backing the US in the Iraq war. British companies lost out to American firms when contracts were awarded for rebuilding Iraq.

These concerns will be raised on Wednesday, when the US Treasury Secretary, John Snow, andChancellor Gordon Brown address the conference.