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Faced with growing competition from China and India, the EU and the US want to sign an agreement to create the world’s biggest global free trade and investment zone. "A future deal between the world's two most important economic powers will be a game-changer, giving a strong boost to our economies on both sides of the Atlantic," said European Commission President José Manuel Barroso in Brussels on Wednesday.

The negotiations are expected to begin in the first half of this year and – according to European trade commissioner Karel De Gucht – may conclude within the next two years.