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US pushes trans-Atlantic free trade

Feb 26 2013 17:06 AP

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Berlin - US Secretary of State John Kerry pushed on Tuesday for a free-trade agreement between the United States and Europe, saying it is a priority for President Barack Obama's second term that would help create jobs and growth on both sides of the Atlantic.

The proposal has been garnering support on both continents, with Obama saying earlier this month that the US believes "trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs."

Speaking after talks on Tuesday with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Kerry said such an agreement would be a boon to the US and Europe.

"We think this is something that can help lift the economy of Europe, strengthen our economy, create jobs for Americans, for Germans for all Europeans, and create one of the largest allied markets in the world," he told reporters alongside Merkel.

"It will help raise standards, it will help break down barriers, and we believe it is good for all of us."

Germany, Europe's largest economy, has strongly supported the idea and Westerwelle said that he hoped the groundwork could be done quicikly to begin negotiations with the U.S. on the agreement by the summer.

"We see here a window of opportunity," Westerwelle said after his one-on-one meeting with Kerry. "It's a window of opportunity that we need to seize in the interest of growth, and jobs for Germany, the United States and Europe."

Still, negotiations may not be easy or short, with agriculture likely to be one tricky area.

Kerry's swing through Berlin was his second stop on a nine-country dash through Europe and the Middle East, Kerry's first trip as secretary of state.

He started his trip in Britain and heads next to France.

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