BERLIN (AP) -- Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has welcomed President Barack Obama's endorsement of free trade negotiations between the United States and the European Union.
A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel says Obama's comments "were probably the most important signal to Europe" during his State of the Union address Tuesday.
Steffen Seibert says a free trade deal would be a "valuable contribution toward more growth and jobs" on both sides of the Atlantic.
Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday that Germany hopes the groundwork for formal negotiations can be laid before the end of June.
Obama's comments boost the profile of previously low-level talks between the U.S. and European Union that could result in the world's biggest free trade area if major differences over agricultural goods can be overcome.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.