President Barack Obama and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano expressed support for a U.S.- European free trade accord that would expand the world’s largest economic relationship.
Neither leader gave details about the prospect of a trade deal, which Obama highlighted in his State of the Union address. The U.S. and the European Union plan to complete negotiations within two years.
Napolitano said the accord would contribute to “a new wave of development” on both sides of the Atlantic.
Talks with the 27-nation EU may help Obama meet his goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014. The trading relationship was valued at $4.5 trillion in 2011.
The 27-nation EU says the accord will seek to lower tariffs, ease regulatory barriers and expand access in investment, services and public procurement.
Obama welcomed Napolitano to the White House as a farewell to the 87-year-old Italian president, whose seven-year term ends in May. Obama called him a “visionary leader” and a “good personal friend.”
The Italian president is the head of Italy’s armed forces and has powers to veto legislation, disband parliament and call elections.
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