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Merkel promotes TAFTA with Bush

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- A U.S.-European economic partnership is critical to both regions' economies, new European Union President Angela Merkel of Germany says.

The German chancellor met with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House Thursday evening, four days after Germany assumed the rotating presidency of the 27-nation European Union and the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations.

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At the meeting, Merkel promoted the idea of closer economic ties between the EU and the United States, beyond removing more trade barriers to creating a trans-Atlantic free-trade zone, a spokesman said.

Merkel told The Financial Times and Germany's Der Spiegel before the meeting she found the idea of such an agreement -- with joint financial market regulations, stock exchange rules, intellectual-property rights and mutual recognition of technical standards -- "fascinating."

The zone would be created after international political negotiations to create a trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, or TAFTA.

The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, is a free-trade agreement among Canada, the United States and Mexico.

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