Support growing for US-EU trade deal

President Obama announced the talks during his State of the Union address last week, and joined European Union leaders the following day to officially launch the process toward negotiations, which are expected to start in June.

"To increase investment, speed innovation and create more jobs, we need to move more aggressively to open new markets and innovate," the senators wrote. 

"We face new sources of competition from emerging markets around the world. As the global economy looks for concrete policies and actions to spur growth, now is the time to launch negotiations with this crucial trading partner."

Up until now, there have been issues that have tripped up the trading partners' ability to even start talks on a trade deal. Many trade experts, though supportive of a deal, express skepticism that they will be able to reconcile their differences. 

"While the United States and European markets are already highly integrated through trade, investment and foreign sales of our companies, even small steps will generate significant new economic opportunities and growth," the senators wrote.

An agreement, which is expected to take upward of two years to hammer out, between the world's largest trading partners would create a $5 trillion trans-Atlantic free-trade zone.

Last week, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk pressing him to create greater access on issues similar to the Portman-Nelson letter — U.S. agricultural and service exports, improved intellectual property protection, regulatory compliance and a mechanism for dispute settlement. 

Portman and Nelson were joined by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).