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An EU-US free trade agreement to be negotiated shortly is a global "game-changer" which will boost growth and provide much-needed jobs, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said Wednesday.
An accord setting up the largest free trade bloc in the world would be "ground-breaking ... a game-changer," which will add 0.5 percent to the EU economy every year once it is in place, Barroso said.
Better still, "it’s a boost to our economies that does not cost a cent," he said, noting that after previous obstacles and objections, both sides were now ready for a deal.
Hailing President Barack Obama's commitment after announcing the talks overnight in Washington, Barroso said an agreement "is an assurance that we mean business."
He said: "It shows that the EU and the United States are strategic partners who are ready to go the extra mile to strengthen their economies."
Barroso said it was now important to "get the ball rolling" as soon as possible, hoping that talks could begin in the first half of this year under Ireland's direction as current holder of the EU's six-month rotating presidency.
"The sooner we start, the sooner we can reach a succesful conclusion," he said, adding that the talks would inevitably prove difficult given the ground to be covered.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said "ideally, we want to finish this dossier within two years."
Obama told Congress on Tuesday in his State of the Union address that he had agreed to open the talks "because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs."
With two-way trade worth $646 billion last year, the idea of an accord has been revived against a backdrop of stalled growth and huge job losses in the world's two biggest trading entities.