EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said bilateral talks over the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) need to “step up a gear”.

He was speaking after spending two days in Washington DC, meeting US Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman and saying afterwards that “good progress” had been made in the negotiations, which started in July last year.

“The EU-US trade and investment negotiations have made steady progress in the last eight months,” said de Gucht.

“I believe this stocktaking has shown us that we now need to go the extra mile to really take the process forward.”

Among the “ambitious” proposals de Gucht would like to see are substantive reductions on duties and tariffs on agricultural and industrial goods.

He also called for measures to allow EU and US firms to compete on equal terms, permission for EU firms to bid for public contracts in the US, and improved access and transparency on procurement rules.

Removing unnecessary trade barriers and bringing rules closer together could cut the costs faced by EU firms exporting to the US by up to 25%, the Commissioner believes.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman van Rompuy and US President Barack Obama are due to meet in Brussels at the EU-US summit on 26 March.