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EU, US open new round of free trade talks

EU and US negotiators have started a new round of trade talks to advance the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The negotiations come after the US and 11 Pacific nations finalized a trade pact.

EU and US negotiators in Miami on Monday started the 11th round of trade talks seeking to create a trade and investment zone encompassing 800 million people and nearly half of global economic output.

The five-day negotiations will seek to bridge differences over largely technical issues to reach an end-of-year goal to wrap up talks. The latest round comes two weeks after the US and 11 Pacific nations completed negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which will create a free trade and investment zone covering 40 percent of the world economy.

Speaking in Madrid on Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said TTIP would remove trade barriers, create common standards and boost economic output and jobs.

"With the passage of the TPP, it is really important for Europe now to come together now around the TTIP because this can help to elevate the rules and regulations by which we do business all across the planet," Kerry said.

"It won't hurt the environment or labor standards... But it takes away the interferences that prevent our ability to be able to grow jobs faster," he said.

TTIP is facing growing resistance in Europe, where opponents argue the trade pact will tear down the EU's health, labor and environmental standards while empowering corporations.

A protest against TTIP in Berlin earlier this month drew up to 250,000 people, according to the organizers. A recent poll indicated nearly half of Germans opposed the trade pact, compared to 25 percent against it last year.

Anti-TTIP protests in Berlin

Thousands rallied against TTIP in Berlin this month

Adding to the controversy surrounding the trade pact is the secrecy of the negotiations. Both sides will release the text of TTIP only when it is fully negotiated. The text would then not be able to be amended by US and European legislatures.

"The EU must ensure that people have trust in what we are doing in their name," EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said on Monday.

The major issues under discussion this week are government procurement standards and technology. The EU is looking to gain greater access to local government procurement in the United States, where states are hesitant to give contracts to foreign companies.

cw/msh (AFP, dpa)

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