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Brussels: European Union (EU) trade chief Cecilia Malmstroem said on Friday a historic free trade deal between Europe and the United States could still be reached this year despite growing opposition.

“We are working as hard as we can to do this," Malmstroem, the EU’s trade commissioner, said, arriving for talks with ministers from the European Union’s 28 member countries to discuss the deal.

“But only if we feel that it is a good agreement that respects our red lines of course... and that we feel comfortable that member states will endorse it," she added.

She spoke as about 100 activists protested outside the Brussels venue of the ministerial talks demanding that the negotiations be abandoned.

Washington and Brussels want the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) completed this year before US President Barack Obama leaves office, but it has faced mounting opposition especially in France and Germany.

Polls show that Germans are growing increasingly wary of the proposed pact despite Chancellor Angela Merkel’s continued support.

In France, President Francois Hollande said earlier this month that Paris would reject it “at this stage".

A poll said nearly two thirds of French people don’t trust the government to defend the country’s interests in the negotiations.

TTIP aims to topple regulatory and tariff barriers to trade and investment.

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