The US is the EU's biggest export market for food and drink, accounting for €13.6bn worth of products in 2012, while the US is the EU's third largest source of food and drink imports, after Argentina and Brazil. The two markets hope to finalise negotiations by October 2014.
Reacting to the announcement, president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said that strengthening the relationship between the two markets would help bring more jobs and more growth to Europe and the United States.
"We intend to move forward fast," he said. "We can say that neither of us will give up content for the sake of speed, but we intend to make rapid progress. I’d rather see the core challenge, moving our regulatory regimes closer, and addressing the harmful effect of behind-the-border trade barriers. Huge economic benefits are expected from reducing red tape, avoiding divergent regulations for the future."
He added in a video statement: "The potential economic gains for the EU are estimated at around €120 billion a year. And the real beauty of this deal is that it will offer real returns of around €545 per average household in Europe almost for free. This makes it the cheapest stimulus package one can imagine."
However, FoodDrinkEurope said that regulatory barriers remain the biggest obstacle to trade for food and beverage companies, and raised concerns about the implications of the United States' Food Safety Modernisation Act, especially fees associated with its Foreign Producer Verification Programme.
FoodDrinkEurope president Jesús Serafín Pérez said in a statement that the food and drink industry welcomed the formal launch of trade negotiations.
“We particularly welcome President Barroso’s announcement that the parties will look at ways to ‘reduce red tape and avoid divergent regulations for the future’," he said. "As Europe’s largest manufacturing industry, and the world’s largest exporter and importer of food and drink products, we look forward to playing an active role and providing input to the negotiations on this Agreement, which has the potential to drive growth and facilitate access to a major export market, thereby generating new opportunities for Europe’s food and drink manufacturers."
The first round of TTIP negotiations is due to take place in Washington, D.C. on July 8.