ENNISKILLEN, Northern Ireland - The European Union and the United States on Monday launched long-awaited formal negotiations to create what would be the world's biggest ever free-trade area.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the first round of negotiations on a pact aimed at creating jobs and boosting the fragile global economy would take place in Washington next month.

Speaking just before the start of the G8 summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: "We are talking about what could be the biggest bilateral deal in history."

"This is a once-in-a-generation prize and we are determined to seize it."

Process Could Take Two Years

The process is expected to take up to two years, an ambitious target for such complex international talks.

Obama said the deal "will support hundreds of thousands of jobs on both sides of the ocean."

"There are going to be sensitivities on both sides... but if we can look beyond the narrow concerns to stay focused on the big picture... I'm hopeful we can achieve [a deal]."

The U.S. president said reaching an agreement "will be a priority of mine and my administration."

If a free-trade agreement (FTA) can be reached, it would be the world's largest: Trade in goods between the United States and the 27-country EU last year was worth some 500 billion euros ($670 billion), with another 280 billion euros in services and trillions in investment flows.

The EU says establishing a free-trade agreement would add about 119 billion euros annually to the EU economy, and 95 billion euros for the United States.

The head of the EU executive, Jose Manuel Barroso, speaking at the same news conference, said a deal could create "huge economic benefits."

"These negotiations will not always be easy, but I am sure they will be worth it," Barroso said. "The current economic climate requires us to join forces and to do more with less."

Barroso said they would "move fast" to seal the deal.