World Economy

TTIP, CETA Protesters March Across Europe

Activists rally for a demonstration against the massive transatlantic trade deals CETA and TTIP in Berlin.Activists rally for a demonstration against the massive transatlantic trade deals CETA and TTIP in Berlin.

Thousands of people demonstrated in France, Spain and Poland against a EU-Canada free trade deal and a far more ambitious agreement with the United States.

Activists charge that the Canada deal will set a dangerous precedent and open the way for a similar but far more sweeping pact with Washington, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, AFP reported.

TTIP has already run into trouble, with the EU saying it will not be agreed before President Barack Obama leaves office in January, as was initially planned.

"The European governments must today hear the refusal of their people," said Attac, an international movement seeking alternatives in the globalization process, and one of the main organizers of the protest.

In France, about 1,200 people marched in Paris, according to the police, but the organizers put the number at 5,000. There were also protests in Lyon and Toulouse.

Demonstrators also took to the streets across Germany on Saturday to protest against the controversial TTIP agreement that would create the world’s biggest free market of 850 million consumers.

There were seas of flags in both Berlin and Munich as people flocked to join the rallies despite the rain, carrying placards and banners representing everything from anti-globalization groups to political parties and unions. “People are not letting their mood be ruined” by the weather, said a spokeswoman for the organizers, Kathrin Ottovay.

Roland Suess from anti-globalization group Attac had earlier said the group expected 250,000 people to turn out in seven German cities to register their opposition to the TTIP, which the EU and US began negotiating in 2013.

Exporters are in favor of the deal as it promises lower tariffs, less red tape and a wider base of consumers for their goods, but consumers fear it would ride roughshod over the 28-nation bloc’s labor market and environmental standards, and lead to more outsourcing and job losses.

Around 1,000 also people marched in Poland's Warsaw and a few hundreds in Krakow. "We don't want TTIP, CETA," they chanted. "Human souls first and profits later," they shouted.

Several thousands marched in the Spanish capital Madrid. Many shouted: "No to poverty, inequality and to TTIP."

Threats of Derailment

The EU-Canada pact has already run into trouble with lawmakers in the small Belgian region of Wallonia on Friday voting to block it.

The parliament vote in the French-speaking part of southern Belgium threatens to derail the long-delayed signing by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of the pact, known as CETA, in Brussels later this month.

In order to be signed by Trudeau at the EU-Canada summit on Oct 27, the deal must first be backed by all 28 EU member states at a trade ministers' meeting on Tuesday.

Paul Magnette, the leader of the region of Wallonia, said he would "not give the full powers to the federal government" to back the deal at an EU meeting Tuesday, where the 28 member states have to decide on full approval of the agreement.

Wallonia, a francophone region of 3.5 million in the south of Belgium, fears the deal with Canada will leave the farming and industrial sectors too exposed to cheaper imports from Canada. Environmental activists and trade unions have all warned such international deals could worsen local standards for food, work and industry.

CETA was formally concluded in 2014 after five years of talks.

Except for a few sensitive agricultural products, CETA abolishes virtually all tariffs between Canada and the EU. Acquiescing to a European demand, Canada has agreed to substantially open up its public procurement to EU companies, which until now were basically barred from such contracts.

Its backers say the deal will boost trade in goods and services between Europe and Canada by more than 20%, and total EU GDP by about €12 billion ($13.4 billion) per year.

"These accords use growth to put into question social and environmental norms to help benefit multinationals," said French unionist Murielle Guilbert.

Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints