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US ambassador to EU says Ukraine crisis spurs talks on free trade deal with the 28-nation bloc


BRUSSELS — The new U.S. ambassador to the European Union says the crisis in Ukraine has given a boost to free trade talks with the 28-country bloc.

Anthony Luzzatto Gardner said Friday that Russia's annexation of Crimea "has focused minds" in Brussels and Washington that the ongoing free trade talks can strengthen their alliance beyond the purely economic.

Gardner, who took up his post last month, said the trans-Atlantic free trade agreement should become for the economy what NATO is for the two sides' military cooperation.

The ambassador told reporters there's a new sense that reaching a wide-ranging agreement between the world's two largest economies is "of strategic and vital importance."

The EU also hopes to diversify its energy sources through the agreement by increasing gas imports from the U.S.

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