The second round of scheduled talks between top European Union and American officials to clinch the world's largest trade deal have been cancelled because of the US government shutdown.
The discussions were meant to start on Monday but European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said US Trade Representative Michael Froman had said Washington would be unable to send its delegation.
"Next week's negotiations have therefore been cancelled," he said in a statement Friday, referring to the planned talks in Brussels.
De Gucht said the delay was "clearly regrettable" but he also insisted that both the EU and the United States were "strongly committed to see the process through".
Both sides hope to have proposals ready by January to end deep differences over rules and regulations.
Gaps on food and aviation safety, to standards for electric cars or the regulation of financial services, stand in the way of plans for a transatlantic deal to create the world's largest free trade area.
A first round of talks in efforts to seal the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership took place in Washington in July. Besides the cancelled second round, a third round of talks is due to be held in December.
The EU-US deal would cover an area that has 820 million people.
While no timeframe has been set to reach a deal, there is pressure on both sides to make significant progress by late next year before a new European Commission takes office come November 2014. - AFP, October 5, 2013.