Britain will attempt to achieve a major diplomatic coup by fostering talks towards an EU-US trade agreement in 2013, David Cameron has revealed.
The prime minister, writing to the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US as Britain assumes its 2013 presidency of the G8, said he viewed the beginning of negotiations on an EU-US deal as "perhaps the single biggest prize of all" in this summer's upcoming talks.
European states and the US account for roughly a third of all global trade. Economists believe their relationship, worth over $700 billion every year, could be increased further by dismantling restrictions to create an effective transatlantic single market.
British officials hope by starting debate between the G8's governments now it will be able to make progress by the time leaders gather in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, for the main annual summit in June.
Cameron wrote: "These are vital opportunities for global growth, and I hope that we in the G8 can offer leadership – in particular by working with businesses in every sector of our economies to mobilise support for these deals and by using the openness of our direct engagement as leaders to address the sticking points frankly and to fix them."
The CBI, which represents British business interests, has already given a green light to the PM's plans. It called on the UK to carve out a new global trading role for itself in its new year message.
A groundbreaking EU-US trade deal would help boost the UK's long-term growth prospects and help the flat domestic economy, director-general John Cridland suggested.
"President Obama and the EU's political leaders need to grab the bull by the horns," he said.
"We need to be mature and resist the siren calls of protectionism and look long-term. The best way of creating jobs, promoting investment and stimulating growth is by eliminating the tariffs and harmonising the regulation which holds back businesses on both sides of the Atlantic."
The UK's proposal for an EU-US deal has not come out of the blue.
European Union trade commissioner Karel De Gucht has recommended pursuing talks to begin in the spring of 2013, while German chancellor Angela Merkel and Cameron both suggested the possibility to Barack Obama in their congratulation message to the re-elected US president.
Cridland added: "The US wants the big prize – access to a market of 500 million customers across the EU, not just 60 million on our own shores. So the best way of getting the right deal for the UK is on an EU-wide basis. The EU must be the launchpad for UK business to trade with the rest of the world, carving out a new global role for ourselves."
Britain's diplomatic agenda for its G8 presidency also covers tax issues and anti-corruption measures, Cameron revealed in his letter.
The prime minister suggested the G8 could examine whether international standards on tax avoidance and evasion could be strengthened as part of broader measures to increase tax revenue.
He said the G8 could do more to increase transparency in aid flows and, more generally, boost what Cameron calls the "golden thread" helping economic growth of the rule of law, absence of conflict and corruption and the presence of property rights.
"These decisions cannot simply be left to our technical experts," Cameron's letter concluded.
"They need our decisive leadership. The truth is that on all these issues, we know what the sticking points are and we need to find the political will to tackle them head on. By working together over the coming months, I believe that we can."
Observers have noted the UK's agenda is largely free of any major spending commitments, as the world's largest economies face further constraints in 2013.
Shadow Treasury minister Catherine McKinnell said the G8's agenda should focus on promoting growth and jobs – and claimed Cameron's credibility on these issues was being undermined by his domestic approach to deficit reduction.
"Over the last year David Cameron's policies have seen prices rise faster than wages, a flatlining economy, rising long-term unemployment and the deficit going up," she commented.
"And the price for this economic failure will be paid for by millions of working families who will see their tax credits cut while millionaires get their tax bill reduced this year.
"We urgently need a change of course, with policies that stimulate rather than stifle economic growth and ensure that prosperity is more fairly shared."