Free trade pact between US and Europe possible: Biden



Munich: Emphasising that Europe continues to be the bedrock of the United States' global engagement, Vice President Joe Biden has offered the US government's support to create a transatlantic free trade zone.

A comprehensive free trade pact between the US and Europe will not only raise transatlantic relations to a new level, but will also bolster the economies on both sides, create new jobs and strengthen global trading system, Biden said in his keynote address to 49th Munich Security Conference.

The idea of a free trade zone between the US and Europe was never pursued before because of long-running disputes over "difficult and complicated guidelines, standards and themes which divide and separate us," Biden said.

However, "if there is a political will to overcome these difficulties, an agreement could be possible," he told a gathering of around 400 participants on the second day of the three-day conference.

He suggested that the two sides should work for a new transatlantic partnership without being bogged down in long drawn-out negotiations.

"I think we can overcome the present differences. It must be done because the fruits of an agreement will be unlimited," Biden said.

"Neither the United States nor any other nation can face the challenges in the future alone. Therefore, we must stay together. We need you exactly as you need us," the US Vice President said.

The transatlantic relations have never been so deep, broad and important as at present, he added.

Europe is already the largest trading partner of the United States.

Exchange of goods and services between Europe and the US, estimated to be around USD 600 billion a year, contributes significantly to promote economic growth as well as to create and preserve employment on both sides of the Atlantic.

Biden assured European partners that transatlantic relations will be the main pillar of the United States' global cooperation in spite of a shift in its foreign policy emphasis towards the Asia-Pacific region.

Countries such as India, Brazil, China, South Africa and Indonesia are playing an increasingly important role in the areas of global security and economic expansion.

"It is in our interest that they become fully integrated and responsible players on the world stage," he said.

Asia is playing a prominent role in the US foreign policy.

However, this engagement is not at the cost of US relations with Europe, Biden said.

On the contrary, it is also in the interest of Europe that America is getting itself engaged in a much broader areas of the world, the US Vice President said.

"We must do this jointly. European companies and consumers will benefit from US efforts to secure much wider market access and fairer conditions in international trade," he said.

Like the United States, Europe also has a strong interest in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Therefore, we should further build up our cooperation so that we can further promote our common interest. United States and Europe should also cooperate to tackle jointly the security challenges in this region," US Vice President said.

Biden commended the steps taken by the euro-zone nations to solve the three-year-old debt crisis and the efforts by several struggling nations to reform their economies.

The euro-zone governments must also focus on generating growth and employment, he suggested.

The European problems require European solutions, but when and how they are tackled has a "clear consequence" for the economies of the United States and the rest of the world, Biden added.

PTI