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US-EU trade pact talks make 'good progress': source

EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht talks during a press conference in Paris on January 16, 2013
EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht talks during a press conference in Paris on January 16, 2013. US and European Union negotiators made some headway Wednesday toward a trans-Atlantic free trade pact, a person close to the talks told AFP.

US and European Union negotiators made some headway Wednesday toward a trans-Atlantic free trade pact, a person close to the talks told AFP.

"Good progress has been made," the source said after EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht met with US Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

"The discussions centered around the potential free-trade agreement between the EU and the US."

A free-trade pact between the two sides has been envisaged for years, but little real movement has taken place.

A working group has been in place for a year, with some expectations that a decision to launch formal talks could be made soon.

Last week German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for progress on the issue as she welcomed US Vice President Joe Biden for talks in Berlin.

"Personally, I would like us to move forward in the EU-US free-trade negotiations," she said ahead of their meeting.

A pact would cover a two-way trade relationship that amounted to 445 billion euros ($600 billion) in 2011.

EU leaders at a summit on Thursday were expected to discuss the planned free-trade deal with the United States, which is seen as potentially providing a boost to the two economies.

But bilateral negotiations have become bogged down amid disagreements over agricultural subsidies.

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