Italy’s Letta Says Trade Pact Between U.S., EU to Be Priority

Prime Minister Enrico Letta, after meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington, said a trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union will be a priority when Italy holds the EU’s rotating presidency next year.

Government leaders and business groups have been pursuing the pact, known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or T-TIP, as a way to boost their economies. Negotiators want to eliminate most tariffs and streamline the thicket of regulations in the two regions that generate more than $30 trillion in annual economic output.

“It will be next year in the second semester for sure the priority of our European presidency,” Letta, whose country holds the leadership post in the second half of 2014, said yesterday. “With Obama we discussed about the dream to sign this agreement together before the end of next year.”

Talks on T-TIP began in July, and a second round to be held in Brussels between Oct. 7 and Oct. 11 had to be canceled due to the partial shutdown of the U.S. government, according to a European Commission overview. Officials have identified about 20 areas, ranging from customs duties to technical standards for goods, that will need to be discussed, the Commission fact sheet states.

Letta, 47, Italy’s third premier since 2011, is shifting the burden to government bureaucracy from taxpayers in a bid to spur his country’s stagnant economy as deficit cutting continues.

The prime minister, speaking at the Brookings Institution, said Italy risks a “lost generation” because of youth unemployment.

The unemployment rate for people between the ages of 15 and 24 rose to a historic high of 40.1 percent in August from 39.7 percent the previous month, national statistics office Istat said Oct. 1.

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