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German Fears About U.S. Spying Could Hurt Trade Deal

Most Americans and Germans agree: more trade between the United States and the European Union would be a good idea.

But when you get down to details of a possible trade pact, suspicions pop up, according to a new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in association with Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation.

"There is a lot of fear" now in Europe about how much Americans might pry into Europeans' lives if they could impose their more relaxed privacy standards on the EU, Aart De Geus, CEO of the Bertelsmann Foundation, said at a conference in Washington on Thursday.

De Geus presented the survey results along with Bruce Stokes, director of Global Economic Attitudes at Pew Research.

First, the two pointed to the overall positive response: When asked whether a U.S.-EU trade deal would benefit their respective countries, 53 percent of Americans and 55 percent of Germans said that "it sounds like a pretty good thing," Stokes said.

But when asked whether they would welcome one of the key provisions, namely, adoption of uniform regulatory standards for U.S. and EU goods and services, a trade deal becomes much less attractive to Germans. In the wake of last year's revelations about U.S. spying, 85 percent of Germans say they prefer European regulations for data privacy.

Documents released last summer by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency, suggested the United States gathered information from around the world, including Germany. That has generated "a huge backlash" in Germany, De Geus said.

In contrast to the Germans, about three Americans in four think it would be good to harmonize regulations among trading partners, but that positive attitude may reflect their assumption that U.S. standards would prevail, Stokes said.

Stokes said the White House will continue to work on building support for a proposed Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership, and likely would ask Congress to vote on it next year. That's because "failure will have a cost," he said.

For example, Europeans may draw closer to China, and end up selling more goods into the growing market, leaving the United States behind, Stokes said.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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