Morning business round-up: EU-US free-trade talks

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What's making the business news in Asia and Europe this morning? Here's our daily business round-up:

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The European Union and the US are to begin formal talks on a free-trade agreement, paving the way for the biggest trade deal in history.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso made the joint announcement following President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

A deal would bring down trading barriers between the two biggest economies in the world.

EU-US trade is worth around 455bn euros (£393bn; $613bn) a year.

Dutch banking and insurance group ING has announced a further 2,400 job cuts as it prepares to split its banking and insurance operations.

It that 1,400 jobs would go from its retail banking business in the Netherlands, with a further 1,000 jobs going at ING Belgium.

ING hopes the move will eventually result in combined cost savings of 270m euros ($364m; £230m) a year.

It takes the total job cuts at the bank to 7,500 in the past 15 months.

The announcement came as ING reported a 21% rise in net profit for the fourth quarter to 1.43bn euros, thanks to gains from asset sales.

French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen has reported a net loss of 5bn euros ($6.7bn; £4.3bn) for 2012, compared with a 588m euro profit a year earlier.

The loss was mainly due to asset write-downs of 4.7bn euros which Peugeot took to reflect the worsening state of Europe's car market.

Last year, Peugeot announced a programme to cut its costs by 1bn euros in response to falling sales, including the closure of one factory.

The US has approved the sale of Canadian oil firm Nexen to China's state-owned CNOOC, clearing the way for the deal to be completed.

The deal had been backed by Canadian authorities but needed US approval as Nexen has operations in the country.

There have been concerns over China's access to key US assets, and regulators had previously blocked an attempt by CNOOC to buy a US-based firm.

The $15.1bn (£9.4bn) deal is China's largest foreign takeover.

In the UK, the governor of the Bank of England has said that the economy has "cause for optimism".

Sir Mervyn King, presenting the Bank's latest Quarterly Inflation Report, said a recovery was "in sight", but added that the outlook for inflation had worsened since November.

He now expects the inflation rate, currently 2.7%, to rise to at least 3% by the summer and to remain above the Bank's 2% target for two years.

The Bank's last report in November said that inflation would fall back towards its 2% target in the second half of this year.

In the latest Business Daily podcast from the BBC World Service - the three lives of Ping Fu. Beginning life as an orphan, she became a Chinese political prisoner, then relaunched as a pioneer of the high-tech revolution. Today she is one of America's top business entrepreneurs and she tells us her story.

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