WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is postponing negotiations for a landmark free trade deal with the European Union because of a partial shutdown of the U.S. government, the Obama administration said on Friday.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman called European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht to say that U.S. officials could not travel to Brussels next week for talks due to the shutdown, Froman's office, known as the USTR, said in a statement.
Whole swaths of America's federal government have been shut down since Tuesday morning due to an impasse in Congress over funding for the new fiscal year.
"USTR will work with the (European) Commission to craft an alternative work plan that can begin once the U.S. government shutdown ends," the agency said.
Washington and the EU were due to hold a second round of negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which would be the world's biggest free-trade deal.
The United States and the EU already are the world's largest trade and investment partners but are struggling with high unemployment, particularly in Europe.
They hope to create new jobs on both sides of the Atlantic by striking a deal to eliminate remaining tariffs on their goods and to reduce regulatory barriers to trade.
De Gucht said in a statement that the cancellation of the meetings "in no way distracts us from our overall aim of achieving an ambitious trade and investment deal."
(Reporting by Jason Lange; Additional reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels; Editing by Sandra Maler and Paul Simao)