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'Immense stake' for US in eurozone recovery

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew used his opening meetings on Monday in a whistle-stop tour of eurozone leaders to remind EU partners of the "immense stake" the United States has in European recovery and reform efforts.

Lew met with European Union President Herman Van Rompuy in Brussels, alongside European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso and top economic and finance officials Olli Rehn and Michel Barnier.

Later, he was to speak with European Central Bank president Mario Draghi and also hold talks with German and Italian finance ministers Wolfgang Schaeuble and Vittorio Grilli, although France's Pierre Moscovici pushed back to next week in Washington their planned meeting with the French government embroiled in a tax fraud scandal.

Washington is taking a keen interest in EU plans to develop an integrated banking union across the 17-state eurozone, to parry the risk of a bigger crisis than the one in Cyprus where banks went into lockdown amid fears of international capital flight.

"Our economy's strength remains sensitive to events beyond our shores and we have an immense stake in Europe's health and stability," Lew said during a media appearance alongside Van Rompuy.

"I was particularly interested in our European partners' plans to strengthen sources of demand at a time of rising unemployment," he added.

EU leaders have struggled to chart a consistent path marrying German-led demands for austerity with calls to invest for growth, a subject set to feature when G20 leaders gather in Russia later this year.

Lew, who succeeded Tim Geithner in February, did not comment or take questions from the press, but cited 14 consecutive quarters of US economic expansion at a time of receding government support for the economy.

He said his meeting had touched on the long road towards a hoped-for EU-US free trade agreement, seen on both sides of the Atlantic as a potential economic "game-changer," in the words of a top Barroso aide.

"The US has no bigger, more important economic relationship than with Europe," Lew emphasised.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130408/immense-stake-us-eurozone-recovery-0