Merkel urges greater efforts towards EU-US trade pact

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Friday for stepped-up efforts towards a transatlantic trade pact as she welcomed US Vice President Joe Biden for talks in Berlin.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Merkel said: "Personally, I would like us to move forward in the EU-US free trade negotiations."

She added there were "positive signs" in that President Barack Obama has put the issue on the agenda for his second term in office.

EU leaders at a summit on Thursday were expected to discuss the planned free-trade deal with the United States, which is seen as potentially providing a boost to the economies of both regions.

Negotiations have become bogged down amid disagreements over agricultural subsidies.

For his part, Biden described Germany as "an absolutely essential, critical partner" and added that "the transatlantic alliance continues to be the basis upon which our entire relations in the world rest."

"Without a strong Europe and close ties to Europe, it is not conceivable how America's interests can be met around the world," said the vice president.

The vice president was holding talks with Merkel before travelling down to the southern German city of Munich for the annual security conference of top brass and foreign policy officials.

He will deliver a speech on foreign policy there on Saturday and hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and Syrian opposition chief Moaz al-Khatib.