12 Stars

Within the ongoing negotiations on the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (T-TIP) one issue has been successfully put on the public agenda by leftist campaigning organisations: The Chlorinated Chicken. In the United States it is common to disinfect slaughtered poultry with chlorine dioxide. The European Union has put a ban on such poultry with the effect that access to the single market for US exports gets blocked. European citizens find the chlorination practice revolting.

In an interview the US Ambassador to the EU Anthony L. Gardner mentioned the Chicken as an example for myth of campaigners made about T-TIP that T-TIP would “force Europeans to eat” chlorinated chicken.

What bothers us here is that Ambassador Anthony L. Gardner spreads a dishonest message. Whoever follows transatlantic trade policy knows that the chlorinated chicken is top on the US trade agenda. In fact five years ago the United States launched a complaint at the WTO against the EU concerning these “measures of the EC affecting poultry meat and poultry meat products”.

The WTO dispute with the EU is still unresolved. In fact, sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) are also included on the agenda for T-TIP negotiations. They would not discuss the “chlorinated chicken” on narrow terms but based on principles such as a scientific assessment of the trade bans, with the effect that a ban is lifted. From a mere scientific point of view the European consumers have no good argument against chlorination (or gene corn). In the negotiating documents the European Commission indicated it would bow in.

The Ambassador walks a thin line as he leaches out against the alleged misinformation by campaigners. The truth is that an agreement would not “force” Europeans to eat poultry slaughtered under US standards, nor would any other move of the EU to lift the ban on US (chlorinated) poultry. Consumers still enjoy their choice. That is an argument of “tobacco” quality and it does not suite the dignity of his office.

Ambassador Anthony Gardner does not lie, what he says is factual. Still he does not say what a media representative might think he said. My experience from past processes is that you will quickly lose an argument when your own supporters do not buy into the substance of your messages. You cannot accuse opposing interests groups of misinformation based on subtle truths. Communication like that is not acceptable in Europe and we should not tolerate it.

While the European Commission beats around the chlorinated poultry and makes misguiding statements to this end, it does not undermine her negotiating position, in fact strengthens it. The EU side does not advocate for a lift of the ban. The European Commission would not suffer from sacrificing the agenda items of the negotiating partner. It gets more and more difficult for the United States to reach a lift of the ban through T-TIP as both sides chant their chlorinated chicken dance. But in effect subtle misinformation is a high risk game in the court of public opinion for a successful conclusion. It plays well into the hands of those who want to bury the entire T-TIP negotiations.

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