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Ashton names new EU envoy to US amid trade talks

David O'Sullivan (left) represents the EU at a trade meeting in New Delhi on February 14, 2006
David O'Sullivan (left) represents the EU at a trade meeting in New Delhi on February 14, 2006

The European Union has named David O'Sullivan of Ireland to become the bloc's new envoy to Washington amid negotiations to forge a free trade pact between the two economic giants.

"I am delighted to announce the appointment of David O'Sullivan to this key job," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

O'Sullivan, who replaces Joao Vale de Almeida, had a long career within the European Commission, including in the trade sector, before becoming chief operating officer of the European External Action Service headed by Ashton since it was formed in 2009.

The European Union and the United States are negotiating what could be the world's largest free trade agreement, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The mammoth undertaking is fraught with complex issues over market access and regulation.

O'Sullivan also takes on the new post as the 28-nation EU and the United States seek common ground on handling the Ukraine crisis.

Washington wants tough economic sanctions but some EU countries, heavily dependent on Russia for energy imports and trade, are reluctant to risk a complete breakdown in ties.

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