Europe and the United States are set to launch a series of trade talks that could redefine the path for global economic growth for decades to come after a pledge by President Barack Obama during his State of the Union address.
The world's largest economy and the world's largest single economic bloc agreed to pursue closer business ties that could lead to a transatlantic deal worth trillions of dollars in annual trade. Talks are expected to begin in June.
"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," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels.
"The transatlantic economic relationship is already the world's largest, accounting for half of global economic output and nearly one trillion dollars in goods and services trade, and supporting millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic," a joint statement added.
"Trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs," the president said in his annual address to US lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who will chair the upcoming G8 leaders' summit in Northern Ireland, pledged to support the negotiations.
"Breaking down the remaining trade barriers and securing a comprehensive deal will require hard work and bold decisions on both sides. I am determined to use my chairmanship of the G8 to help achieve this and to help European and American businesses succeed in the global race."
China recently overtook the US as the world's largest trade market, with official data suggesting import and export activity surpassing $3.87 trillion last year, around half a billion more than measured by the US Department of Commerce.
The International Monetary Fund said in January in its World Economic Outlook that emerging market economies will likely grow nearly 4 percentage points faster than their developed rivals this year and 3.7 percentage points faster in 2014. Global trade volumes will likely expand by 3.8 percent this year, the IMF said, and 5.5 percent next year with the lion's share of growth in both imports and exports going to emerging market and developing economies.
US-EU trade is estimated to be worth around $4.5 trillion each year - around 30 percent of all global trade - and daily bilateral activity of around $2.7bn, according to a European Commission report.
The EU is currently negotiating a comprehensive trade deal with Canada, its 12th largest trading partner and destination for around 1.6 percent of its total exports, and gave the "green light" to begin talks with Japan on 29 November.
To contact the editor, e-mail: