Visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that a U.S.-EU free trade deal would be a boon to both the United States and Europe as it will strengthen economic growth and job creation at both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
Kerry emphasized the importance of the trade deal as he held talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, as such a deal could raise living standards on both sides and create one of the "largest allied markets in the world."
"It will help raise standards, it will help break down barriers, and we believe it is good for all of us," Kerry said alongside Merkel, adding that it is a priority in the second term of President Barack Obama, who saw it as a "unique opportunity".
It is estimated that, when the free trade agreement is up and running, the European economy will get a stimulus of half a percent of its GDP, which translates into tens of billions of euros every year and tens of thousands of new jobs, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said earlier this month.
"We are in full agreement that a transatlantic free trade deal needs to come. We are both serious about this," Westerwelle said at a joint news conference with Kerry, adding that negotiations would begin in the summer if preparation goes on well.
Westerwelle added that the deal would create economic growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic without having to make new debt. Germany is current the Washington's largest trade partner in Europe and one of the leading importers of U.S. goods.
The two sides also reaffirmed their special political ties, with Merkel saying that the transatlantic partners share common values and common tasks and Westerwelle praising Kerry's German visit shortly after taking office as "a clear commitment to the transatlantic partnership."
For his part, Kerry called the relationship with Germany as one of his country's strongest and most dynamic alliances in the world, and praised Berlin for its leadership in political and economic issues.
The two sides also discussed issues including withdrawal of NATO combat troops from Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear program, as well as the ongoing conflict in Syria.
Though he declined to elaborate on proposals to end the violence in Syria until after a meeting slated for later in the week with leaders of the Syrian opposition, Kerry expressed hope on the Iranian nuclear issue that Iran would move down "the path of a diplomatic solution."
Kerry will also hold his first talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later in the day and discuss a wide range of issues "on the bilateral agenda and key international problems," the Russian foreign ministry said earlier.
The top American envoy, who took office on Feb. 1 succeeding Hillary Clinton, has visited Britain in his first overseas trip, which will also take him to France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.