Nine thousand people took to the streets of Brussels on Tuesday to demonstrate against free trade deals that the European Union is pursuing with Canada and the United States.

The protest came three days before EU trade ministers discuss the way forward on the two agreements, which are facing a groundswell of public opposition amid fears that they will benefit large corporations at the expense of consumers and local employees.

The "Stop TTIP & CETA Day" was held in the Brussels neighbourhood that houses the EU institutions. Organizers estimated that 15,000 people turned out for the event, but the Brussels police said on Twitter that they had counted 9,000 protesters.

Trade unions, non-governmental organizations, farmers and politicians were among those taking part in the event, which was to feature a short march, a flash mob and a night of concerts and speeches, according to the Belga news agency.

The loud march through the European Quarter featured banners reading "People and planet first" and "Power to the people not to multinationals."

The CETA deal with Canada has already been negotiated and is supposed to be signed during a visit by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on October 27. It would eliminate 98 per cent of tariffs, allowing the free flow of goods between Canada and EU member states.

The European Commission, the EU's executive, believes that CETA is "the best and most progressive trade agreement" ever concluded by the bloc, spokesman Daniel Rosario said Tuesday.

But CETA has been swept up in the mounting opposition that is facing the larger TTIP agreement being negotiated with the US. The latter would create the world's largest free trade area, covering around 800 million people.

Austria's ruling Social Democrats called on Tuesday for several parts of CETA to be changed.

In Germany, tens of thousands of protesters marched on Saturday against both CETA and TTIP.

"The commission is fully aware of the lively debate taking place across member states about trade policy," Rosario said, adding that it expects to hold "frank talks" about the two deals when the EU trade ministers meet in Bratislava on Friday.

Slovak State Secretary Ivan Korcok, whose country currently holds the EU's presidency, told journalists in Brussels that he expects ministers to discuss the issue "very, very intensively," but also that he thinks the EU "would be able to move towards signing" CETA.

The negotiations on TTIP began more than three years ago, with supporters arguing that it would create economic growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. But the deal has been facing ever stronger political headwinds.

Top French politicians spoke out against the agreement last month, leading critics to declare it dead. A new round of TTIP talks has however been scheduled for October 3-7 in New York.

"Even if the negotiations are on the skids, they are still continuing," Michel Cermak, one of the organizers of the Brussels demonstration, told Belga.

TTIP also faces headwinds in the US, amid rising anti-trade sentiment that has stalled a vote on a separate Pacific trade deal. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has spoken out against free trade agreements in his campaign.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.