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Chief U.S. negotiator Dan Mullaney, left, and chief European Union negotiator Ignacio Garcia-Bercero listen to a question during the closing news briefing for the first round of a trans-Atlantic free trade agreement, Friday, July 12, 2013, at the White House Conference Center in Washington. American activists urged European trade negotiators on Wednesday not to weaken environmental and food standards as they begin talks in Washington on a trans-Atlantic free trade agreement. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S., Europe upbeat on trade deal after first talks
First Published Jul 12 2013 10:45 am • Last Updated Jul 12 2013 10:45 am

WASHINGTON • The chief negotiators in U.S. trade talks with Europe were upbeat Friday after the first round of negotiations but said they saw some difficult challenges ahead in removing regulations that hinder trans-Atlantic commerce.

The American negotiator Daniel Mullaney and his European counterpart Ignacio Garcia-Bercero told a news conference in Washington that tensions over U.S. secret surveillance of European diplomats did not come up in the first week of trade talks because they were being discussed in a separate channel.

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European anger over the surveillance was one of several issues that almost snagged the launch of the talks when President Barack Obama was visiting Europe last month.

The two economic powerhouses aim to seal a free trade agreement that will remove most tariffs and other trade barriers, aiming to boost jobs and growth. The first round of talks began on Monday and ends on Friday.

"Our overarching priority is to promote U.S. economic interests and to provide increased opportunities for American workers, businesses farmers and ranchers, and we are very optimistic about our prospects," Mullaney said.

The negotiating teams are grappling with how to reduce a host of regulations that obstruct trade such as Europe’s tight standards on some food imports including genetically modified organisms and U.S. meat that has been washed with chemicals.

Mullaney also responded to complaints from activists that the talks are not transparent enough because negotiating texts are not being released. He said there had been a number of sessions for activists and others to present their views to the teams and the negotiators were considering other ways to open up the process.

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