The White House on Wednesday formally notified Congress of its plans to begin free trade talks with the 27-nation European Union, an effort to build on the world's largest trade and investment relationship to spur new economic growth.

"A high-standard comprehensive trade agreement with Europe is something that will be enormously beneficial for the U.S. economy and the EU in terms of creating new export opportunities (and) boosting jobs," Acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis told reporters at the U.S. Foreign Press Center. President Barack Obama announced plans to negotiate the agreement in his annual State of the Union speech to Congress in February. But U.S. practice is for the administration to send lawmakers a formal notification at least 90 days before beginning talks.

Two-way goods and services trade between the United States and the EU totals about $1 trillion annually. The two sides also have combined foreign direct investment in each other's market of about $3.7 trillion.

But bilateral trade between the two large, mature economies has grown slowly in recent years because of the effects of 2008-2009 financial crisis and competing subsidy and regulatory policies, the Peterson Institute for International Economics noted in a recent policy brief.

"A trade accord is not a magic potion for prosperity, but it can contribute to economic recovery by removing even relatively low barriers across a large volume of bilateral trade," the Washington-based think tank said.

The Center for Economic Policy Research in London has estimated a U.S.-EU free trade agreement could generate 119 billion euros ($155 billion) a year for the European Union and 95 billion euros a year for the United States.

Because tariffs between the transatlantic partners are relatively low, the hard work of the negotiations will be smoothing out regulatory differences that have stunted trade in areas such as agriculture, chemicals, pharmaceutical and autos. (Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Sandra Maler and Stacey Joyce)