EU and US Free-Trade Talks Launched
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is seen at the start of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) plenary session, in Brussels, Belgium, 13 February 2013. Photo by EPA/BGNES
The European Union and the US will begin formal talks on a free-trade agreement, paving the way for the biggest trade deal in history.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso made the announcement following President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.
A deal would bring down trading barriers between the two biggest economies in the world.
EU-US trade is worth around EUR 455 B a year.
Obama announced US support for talks as part of his annual address to Congress on Tuesday, saying a free-trade deal would "boost American exports, support American jobs and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia".
In a joint statement, US and EU leaders said trade between the US and EU supported millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.
"We are committed to making this relationship an even stronger driver of our prosperity," the statement said.
The EU estimates that a "comprehensive and ambitious agreement" will boost annual GDP growth by 0.5%.
It is not clear how long the talks will take, but similar trade deals have involved years of negotiations.
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