German rallies attract 320,000 protesting trade deals with US, Canada

Tens of thousands of protesters carrying placards and banners braved rainy weather in cities across Germany on Saturday to march against the European Union's efforts to sign new far-reaching trade deals with both the United States and Canada.

Organizers of the "Stop TTIP & CETA - for a fair world trade" marches counted approximately 320,000 protesters in Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Leipzig and Munich.

Police confirmed organizer estimates of 70,000 people at the march in the German capital but gave more conservative estimates of 40,000 in Cologne and 30,000 in Hamburg.

The rallies coincide with signs of a shift in the political mood against the trade deals ahead of next year's national election in Germany.

The EU and Canada plan to formally sign off on their Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) at a summit next month, while EU-US negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are aimed at wrapping up before US President Barack Obama leaves office in January next year.

Once finalized, TTIP would create the world's largest free trade area, with about 800 million consumers.

Those in favour of the EU-US trade deal say that TTIP could stimulate the economy and create new jobs on both sides of the Atlantic by abolishing import duties and aligning standards.

In Germany - the EU's largest economy - one in four jobs is directly or indirectly linked to trade.

This week, the ministers of 12 EU member states - including Italy, Britain and the bloc's Nordic and Baltic countries - expressed their firm support for the bloc's trade negotiations with Canada and the United States.

"We ... strongly believe that more trade is necessary if we are to continue creating new jobs in the EU," they wrote in a letter to EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.

The letter was signed by ministers from Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

Last update: Sat, 17/09/2016 - 21:39
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