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Barroso assures US of Europe's 'strong' economy

14 april 2013, 11:25
The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, called on the United States Friday to not underestimate Europe's economic strength, AFP reports.

"Our economic fundamentals remain strong. Europe is still the largest economy in the world," ahead of the United States, Barroso said in a speech in New York.

Even though Europe has been rocked by sovereign debt crisis, Barroso underscored the "surprising conclusion" that Europe's public finances look better in some ways that those of Japan and the United States.

"In terms of the debt-to-GDP ratio, the European average of 82.5 percent, even if it's too high, is decidedly better than the United States's, which is almost 103 percent or Japan's, whose debt is close to 230 percent of its GDP," he said.

Barroso remarks came on the heels of Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew's recent trip to Europe, where he called on European leaders to ease austerity measures and do more to stimulate consumption in a bid to pull the region's economy out of recession.

Barroso emphasized the mutual benefits of the proposed EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Announced by the leaders of the world's largest economy and the 27-nation EU in mid-February, the partnership would create the world's largest free-trade area.

"We want to get as close as possible to the removal of all duties, with a special treatment for the most sensitive products," Barroso said.

A key sensitive sector for Europe is agriculture, particularly the US use of genetically modified crops.

The US has criticized EU rules against imports of genetically modified crops and foods.

Barroso said that the EU wants to cut unnecessary costs and shorten delays for businesses.

"But rest assured: unnecessary costs and procedures only. We, on both sides, will not compromise on our high levels of health and safety standards, on consumer and environmental protection."

Negotiations ont he trade pact were expected to get under way in the coming months.

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