US to launch free trade talks with EU: Obama

US President Barack Obama declared Tuesday that the United States and Europe will launch talks on what would be the world's largest free trade zone.

"Tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union -- because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs," Obama said in his State of the Union speech.

The move answered mounting calls from Europe to pursue a grand trade pact to spur growth on both sides of the Atlantic -- covering a region where two-way trade hit $646 billion last year.

Obama added that he would continue to pursue completion of the current Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade group talks, saying it was important "to boost American exports, support American jobs and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia."