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Germany's Fear of 'Chlorine Chicken' Complicates U.S. Trade Talks

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BRUSSELS - Chancellor Angela Merkel once said she wished "for nothing more than a free-trade agreement between the USA and the EU".

To the dismay of many in Brussels and Washington, Germans are now taking a very different view. That is putting Europe's biggest exporter in the unusual situation of becoming one of the most vocal opponents of the world's biggest trade deal.

A transatlantic pact would create a market of 800 million people and allow Germany to sell more of its luxury cars, trains and chemicals in the United States, an attractive proposition for an economy that has faltered in recent months.

But in a twist that few officials expected, European concerns about the threat to food and the environment have found their strongest voice in Germany, amplified by the country's influential Green party and anger at reports of U.S. spying.

The difficulty of selling the benefits of a deal, which could generate $100 billion a year in economic growth for both the EU and the United States, is a sign of the challenge for governments seeking to contain a growing hostility to the talks.

"We do not want this sort of agreement," said Ska Keller, a 32-year-old German Green who gained prominence at home during European elections in May by putting the trade deal at the center of her campaign. "I don't expect anything positive to come out of the negotiations," she told Reuters.

Even before the latest reports of U.S. spying in Germany, the idea that the U.S. technique of disinfecting chicken with chlorine might be introduced in Europe has alarmed Germans and highlights their wider suspicions about an EU-U.S. accord.

The phrase "Chlorhuehnchen", or chlorine chicken, has entered the parlance of everyone from taxi drivers to housewives since trade negotiations began a year ago.

An Internet search for the term generates thousands of results, bringing up cartoons of animals dumped in vats of chemicals and stabbed with needles.        


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