European Parliament president Martin Schulz on Tuesday called for a free trade deal between the EU and the United States that could bolster struggling economies on both sides of the Atlantic.
"The European Parliament supports a free trade zone between the US and the EU to be set up by 2015," Schulz said at an event in the US capital Washington, promising such a pact would be a "major boost for economic growth."
But he acknowledged that efforts made little headway so far, admitting that it had run into "some reluctance," especially on the European side.
"On both sides of the Atlantic we have differing takes on food safety, consumer protection and environmental standards that are deeply rooted in our cultures," he said.
"Still, if we succeed it would be to the huge benefit for 800 million people."
An EU-US free trade working group was set up a year ago, but neither side has sought to start negotiations, while both have pressed ahead to reduce tariffs and regulatory hurdles with other territories.
European figures show the EU exported 260 billion euros worth of goods to the United States in 2011 and bought US imports worth 184 billion euros.
The European Parliament has to approve all trade agreements concluded by the 27-nation bloc.
Schulz also called for the introduction of tougher global bank capital rules, know as Basel III, as planned on January 1, 2013.
"I think we need as soon as possible a stronger and deeper regulation of the financial markets", he said, warning that "the next crisis is sure to come."
The regulations were drafted in the wake of the 2007 to 2009 global financial crisis, and require financial institutions in particular to hold larger amounts of liquid reserves as a buffer against future crises.
After US authorities said on November 9 that they were putting off the application of Basel III on their own territory indefinitely, negotiations on the rules have slowed down in Europe as well.
European banks have asked the EU Commission and European Union leaders to postpone the implementation, fearing that the new obligations would put them at a disadvantage with US competitors.