Despite the debate about whether China or India might ultimately become the world's leading economic superpower, only the EU can claim to rival the US in terms of overall economic importance today. Measured by GDP, the EU has caught up and even overtaken the US.
Americans remain richer, with the EU's GDP spread across nearly 200 million more people, but higher average incomes in the US are matched by longer working hours. The US economy's greater productivity, higher growth rate and more favourable demographics suggest it may leave the EU trailing again in the future.
A study has forecast the EU economy at 7%-20% smaller than that of the US by 2020 - a gap fuelled by projections that the US population will soar by 100 million as Europe's shrinks by 15 million by mid-century. Alternatively, further EU expansion to take in the Balkans and even Turkey (bringing its total population to 600 million) could bolster Europe's economic might.
Taken together, the US and EU dominate today's global economy, with more than half the world's GDP (and just 12% of its population) and 42% of all trade. The pair's economic ties dwarf all others globally; theirs is the world's largest bilateral trading relationship, with a $3 trillion transatlantic economy providing 14 million jobs.