* Germany emerges as most vocal opponent of EU-U.S. trade
* Concern about food safety inflamed by reports of U.S.
* Trade deal could create growth, jobs but needs public
By Robin Emmott and Tom Körkemeier
BRUSSELS, July 14 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
centre 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.
A majority of Germans believe chlorine-washed chicken is a
danger to human health despite its successful use in the United
States to kill bacteria, according to survey by pollster Forsa.
In the European Union, antibiotics are used. Brussels says
there will be no change in policy even with a U.S. deal.
Chancellor Merkel was instrumental in getting EU leaders to
agree to negotiations with the United States towards the
so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or
A deal would strengthen a transatlantic trade relationship
already worth $3 billion a day, remove barriers to business and
strengthen the West's power over China to shape world trade.
Negotiators meeting in Brussels for a sixth round of talks
this week hope to reach an agreement sometime next year. But
they are struggling to raise awareness beyond vocal labour and
consumer groups who largely oppose an accord.
The EU's trade chief, Karel De Gucht, has warned that many
Europeans think the TTIP "is an extraterrestrial."
Public support is crucial because the U.S. Congress and the
European Parliament must ratify the pact. Germany has the
largest contingent of lawmakers in the parliament.
Unlike some of their EU counterparts, Germans are aware of
the negotiations. Barely a week goes by without the topic being
raised on TV talk shows, in magazines, newspapers and on the
radio. Unfortunately for proponents of a deal, much of the
commentary is negative.
"It is easier to win an argument with fear than with facts,"
said a German businessman in the chemical industry. "Chlorine
chicken ... genetically modified foods - these are out of the
agreement, but it is hard to get the message across."
"PAYDAY FOR VULTURES"
And it's not just about food.
Plans to allow companies to bring claims against a country
if it breaches the trade treaty have created a furore in
Germany, even though Berlin uses the dispute mechanism in other
trade accords and is credited with having invented it in the
"Payday For Vultures" ran a headline about the issue in
German weekly Der Spiegel on March 10.
German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has said he sees the
mechanism as unnecessary, as both the EU and the United States
have strong enough legal systems to protect investors.
The United States is unlikely to accept a trade agreement
without the dispute mechanism. But to make matters worse, the
new chairman of the European Parliament's influential trade
committee, Germany's Bernd Lange, is strongly against it.
The U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Anthony Gardner,
has expressed concern.
"I have never met Mr. Lange, but perhaps is important to
explain to him the history of this mechanism," Gardner told
reporters this month. "It was indeed invented in Germany."
For now, EU and U.S. officials say they are on the front
foot in their campaign to sell the benefits of the deal.
The EU's De Gucht is one of the most active, visiting German
universities and giving speeches to Germany's upper house of
parliament. But there no sign yet that Germany is convinced.
"There's a delusion that somehow Germany has the same
attitude to free trade that Britain does, and that is just not
true," said Phillippe Legrain, a former advisor to the president
of the European Commission.
"Being a big exporter doesn't mean that you like opening
your markets," he said.
(Additional reporting by Annika Breidthardt in Berlin and
Francesco Guarascio in Brussels; Editing by Larry King and John