European Commission (EC) vice president, Antonio Tajani, says he remains confident Europe's automotive sector has a healthy future, although Free Trade Agreements must be "balanced."

Speaking in Brussels at this week's European Industrial Policy Conference, the EC vice president, responsible for trade, voiced the upbeat mood despite the current travails of the Continent's auto manufacturers.

"It [auto industry] is one of the most important sectors for us [although] the situation is not easy," Tajani told just-auto on the sidelines of the Brussels conference.

"I am optimistic of course. I am in favour of Free Trade Agreements, but it is important to have the same rules here and abroad. It is important [to have] good agreement [s] for every sector. We will have more and more cars in the world - maybe next year there are 80m cars."

Despite his automotive enthusiasm, the European vice president confirmed an overall more gloomy economic picture, revealing latest figures showing the Continent had entered a double dip recession that is now seeing average unemployment rates of more than 12%.

Tajani said he was "against protectionism" but that international agreements must be balanced, using what he referred to as the European Union's "trade defence instrument" in the same way as other large industrial blocks.

"I am very satisfied about the opening of negotiations with the US," he said. "The challenge is to eliminate technical barriers to harmonise standards and rules, with significant savings and advantages in terms of competitiveness for our industry."

The Commissioner insisted there had to be an effort to "dismantle the perception of Europe as an enemy to business," with this sometimes taking the form of not doing more, but "doing less."