EU, U.S. fire starting gun for free trade talks

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February 13, 2013 11:35 PM EST

The United States and the European Union agreed on Wednesday to push for the launch by the end of June of talks to create a free trade alliance that could be a benchmark for global partners to follow.

A free trade deal would be the most ambitious ever attempted, encompassing half the world's economic output and a third of global trade flows.

"These negotiations will set a standard, not only for our future bilateral trade and investment, including regulatory issues, but also for the development of global trade rules," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told a news conference.

Speaking after the release of a joint U.S./EU report recommending the start of talks, Barroso said the two were expected to launch negotiations in the first half of the year.

The report sees the EU's economy gaining around 0.5 percent and the U.S. economy around 0.4 percent by 2027, with 86 billion euros ($115.80 billion) of added annual income for the former and 65 billion euros for the latter.

The report's release comes a day after U.S. President Barack Obama threw his weight behind a potential deal in his state of the union address.

($1 = 0.7427 euros)

(Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop, Robert-Jan Bartunek, Adrian Croft and Ethan Bilby; Editing by Peter Graff)

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