The US remains willing to continue talks with the European Union over the stalled Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal, it has been confirmed.
US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC that the country remains keen to strengthen its trade links with Europe, despite the protectionist agenda that president Donald Trump has pursued since his inauguration earlier this year.
The large-scale free trade deal has been in the works for a number of years and has been seen as a counterpart to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement of Pacific Rim nations that the US was previously involved with. If agreed, it would represent one of the biggest free trade agreements in history, but talks have been stalled since Trump's election last year.
The Republican president's longstanding hostility towards multilateral trade agreements has resulted in pessimism about TTIP's future prospects, with German economics minister Brigitte Zypries telling the German newspaper Handelsblatt as recently as last week that she considered it unlikely that TTIP negotiations would resume.
However, Mr Ross has now contradicted this view, saying it was "no mistake" that the US did not withdraw from TTIP at the same time as it chose to end its involvement with the TPP deal.
The US commerce secretary said: "The EU is one of our largest trading partners, and any negotiations legally must be conducted at the EU level, and not with individual nations. Thus, it makes sense to continue TTIP negotiations and to work towards a solution that increases overall trade while reducing our trade deficit."
However, TTIP remains likely to face many hurdles if talks resume, as President Trump has experienced a contentious relationship with many of his EU counterparts, including outspoken recent criticism of Germany's trade deficit with the US.