Clinton is said to envision an “economic NATO” — a comprehensive agreement covering trade in goods, services, investment and agriculture. Indeed, a joint working group of U.S. and E.U. officials is about to release a final report arguing for such a comprehensive deal. …

What’s appealing in particular about the trans-Atlantic initiative is that it could be a big job creator for economies on both continents that are still recovering from the effects of the recession. It would enhance trade and investment flows that are already powerfully established. There’s an estimated $2.7 trillion in cross-investment between Europe and America, and trans-Atlantic trade in goods alone totaled an estimated $674 billion in 2010. Trade between the United States and Europe isn’t a matter of sweatshop competition; labor standards in Europe are, if anything, higher than in the United States.

I like the idea of an “economic NATO” because it addresses fiscal problems through growth and expansion. The alternative “austerity pill” advocated by conservative Germans (and some American budget-cutters) is doomed to fail. Big, new spending initiatives are not a realistic growth strategy, either, given debt worries on both continents. To many economists, it’s a no-brainer: Expanded trade offers the best path to new jobs, markets and investment opportunities.