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G8 summit gets underway, launching formal talks on free trade agreement


07:59, June 18, 2013

LOUGH ERNE, United Kingdom, June 17 (Xinhua) -- The summit of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations is taking place at the Lough Erne resort with the launch of formal negotiations on a free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and the United States.

"We are talking about what could be the biggest bilateral deal in history," British Prime Minister David Cameron said at a joint press conference, alongside European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and U.S. President Barack Obama.

"This is a once-in-a-generation prize and we are determined to seize it," he told reporters.

Van Rompuy admitted there would be sensitivities on both sides but it showed the political will to work together on growth, jobs and prosperity.

Obama said the trade and investment partnership was of economic and strategic importance and one that his administration would treat as a priority.

"The U.S.-EU relationship is the largest in the world," Obama said.

"This potentially ground-breaking partnership will deepen those ties. It would increase exports, decrease barriers to trade and investment," he said.

"There are going to be sensitivities on both sides. There are going to be politics on both sides," he said.

"But if we can look beyond the narrow concerns to stay focused on the big picture - the economic and strategic importance of this partnership, I'm hopeful we can achieve that high standard and comprehensive agreement that the global trading system is looking to us to develop," Obama said.

The first round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations will reportedly take place at the week of July 8 in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

The U.S. and the EU already have the largest economic relationship in the world, accounting for half of global economic output and 30 percent of world trade. The transatlantic trade deal will aim to eliminate all tariffs on trade and create the largest free trade area in the world.

Senior EU officials announced last Friday that EU member states had reached an agreement to grant a mandate to the European Commission for negotiating the free trade deal, but the audio-visual sector would not be in the mandate at this moment.

The partial mandate is a result of determined opposition from France which has been insisting that it will not allow the transatlantic negotiations to begin unless the European Commission agreed to take all audio-visual issues off the table in advance.

French Minister for Foreign Trade Nicole Bricq said that if further opened up to the United States, the survival of its cultural sectors would be at risk, as U.S. companies would bring along "technological revolutions" that French companies would find it difficult to adapt.

The leaders attending the summit include Obama, Cameron, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, French President Francois Hollande, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Barroso.

Apart from the conflict in Syria, the two-day summit will also focus on economic and taxation issues.

The summit is taking place amid intensive security at the Lough Erne resort and its outskirts, with 8,000 police on duty around the venue.

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