US and EU feel the love on Valentine's Day

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Love was in the air at the State Department on Thursday when United States Secretary of State John Kerry pledged to the European Union's Ms Catherine Ashton that Washington would forever remain true to Europe.

Even though the US is wooing Asian nations as part of President Barack Obama's pivot towards the continent, Mr Kerry insisted European countries should not feel they are being jilted.

"The rebalancing that President Obama is engaged in does not and will not come at the expense of any relationship with Europe whatsoever," Mr Kerry vowed, as he headed into talks with EU foreign policy chief Ashton.

In fact, he said, there was enough room for everyone.

"We want more engagement with Europe, we think Europe can be more of a partner," Kerry said.

Ms Ashton also pledged that whatever differences there may have been in the past, America still holds an indelible place in Europe's heart.

"There's nowhere better on Valentine's Day to be than in Washington, DC, to celebrate this great partnership," she said. "We want to be your most reliable partner."

They were meeting just two days after Mr Obama vowed to pursue an ambitious transatlantic deal to create the world's largest free trade area, liberalise investment, harmonise regulation and boost economic growth.

Both Kerry and Ashton described the plans for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the chance to deepen economic ties as exciting.

"I think we can do this and do it in good time," Ms Ashton said, adding it will do much to "add great value to our relationship, and as importantly to support our economies and to support our people with jobs."

Mr Kerry also hailed the proposed talks, which have an 18-month timeframe, saying a deal would have "enormous benefit" on both sides of the Atlantic.

"We all know the difficulties, but I think this moment is one that we could really get through," Mr Kerry added.