Positive momentum in free trade talks between the United States and European Union this year could lead to an agreement in early 2016, European Union Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said on Wednesday.
Hogan, who is visiting Washington this week, said it would be ideal if negotiators could set the stage for a deal early next year, before the U.S. presidential election campaign.
Both sides have declared a fresh start in negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which seeks to reduce trade barriers and harmonize regulations, after disappointing progress last year.
If the U.S. administration could wrap up a Pacific trade pact and Congress could pass fast track authority to streamline the passage of trade deals in coming months, "in the second half of this year we can make a lot of progress on TTIP," Hogan told reporters.
"If we don't make substantial progress in 2015 we won't get a deal in early 2016," he said, stressing that substance was more important than speed.
"There is a lot of engagement now happening that was not there in 2014 and I hope that it will yield the positive outcome that we all want to see in early 2016 if possible."
Agricultural products are one of the biggest sticking points TTIP, including genetically modified crops, chlorine-washed chicken, U.S. beef exports and protection for food product names.