German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called for a free trade zone between the European Union and North America as an answer to the debt crisis, in an interview published Saturday.
"I insist that Europe and North America begin talks on a transatlantic free trade zone as soon as possible," Westerwelle told the German daily Neue Osnabrucker Zeitung.
"Free trade is a growth engine that has proven to work time and time again," he said, adding that the crisis in Europe and the United States had reinforced worldwide protectionist tendencies, which were having an effect on growth.
European national debt levels have risen way above EU limits, with the 27-member EU's total debt increasing to 84.9 percent of gross domestic product in the second quarter of this year.
Debt at levels approaching 100 percent is widely seen as unsustainable for the long term, but some countries such as Japan have lived with much higher levels for years.
There is discord within Europe about whether austerity or pro-growth measures are the answer to resolving the region's crisis.