The US and the European Union (EU) are making real progress towards concluding a comprehensive wine and spirits agreement, Brussels' outgoing agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler has told the EU Council of Ministers.

The Austrian said that since talks in the long running negotiations had been resumed last month (on wine), the European Commission and the US government have been striving to secure a preliminary deal, upon which a final agreement could be built.

Fischler told the council: "The discussion so far has been rather constructive. And the Commission will continue these talks. We are aiming at consolidating progress made so far  and resolving outstanding issues with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable first step agreement as soon as possible."