The European Union needs to secure a free trade deal with the U.S., Jyrki Katainen, former Finnish prime minister in the running for vice presidency at the European Commission, told CNBC.
Talks on the E.U.-U.S. free trade deal, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, began last year and have faced opposition in Europe.
French politician Marine Le Pen, president of the right wing Front National Party, is campaigning against the deal, arguing that unfettered transatlantic commerce would damage vulnerable national industries and hit employment.
But Katainen, who currently serves as the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, fully backs the deal.
"We need a free trade agreement with the United States," he said, adding that an energy union and a single market were also pivotal.
"These are the issues which could help all of Europe increase competitiveness, increase competition, and this is the way we get more jobs...We need more opportunities for our small and medium-sized [companies,] but also for the bigger companies, to go to the U.S. market," he added.
The European Commissioner also reiterated his view that structural reform is still a much-needed objective in Europe and acknowledged that increasing demand is an important factor in stimulating growth.
"The European economic challenges are more structural in nature than cyclical... what I personally hope is that all the member states would do more on the structural side, like with the labor market, in some countries we need pension reforms, in some countries we need a better single market in order to strengthen competitiveness," he said.
"Because we are not only competing between ourselves in Europe, but we should be more competitive on a global scale," he added.