Germans take to streets against EU-US free trade deal

In a show of discontent over globalisation, thousands of people throughout Germany came out to protest against the proposed free trade deal, which they fear may lead to job losses and environmental degradation.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Consumer rights activists take part in a march to protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in Berlin, Germany, September 17, 2016.

Thousands of people throughout Germany took to the streets on Saturday to protest the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), two proposed free trade agreements between the US and the EU which they fear could lead to the loss of thousands of jobs and harm the environment.

The organisers of the rallies said that 320,000 people joined demonstrations against the deal in several major cities including Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and Frankfurt, while police put the figure at around 180,000.

Large crowds carrying banners and flags marched through the streets of the cities, with the demonstrations remaining largely peaceful. Those attending the marches frequently referenced their fears that the deals would give more power to multinational corporations and financiers at the expense of local industries, jobs, safety and the environment.

One protester, Tobias Kuhn, told the BBC, that if the deals goes ahead "the enterprises and banks...will have power over people worldwide."


Consumer rights activists take part in a march to protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in Berlin, Germany, September 17, 2016. (Reuters)

In Berlin, demonstrators waved banners reading "People over profits," while German news website Deutsche Welle reported that farmers in Cologne unfurled a banner saying: "TTIP and genetic engineering, keep away from our farms!"

The TTIP

The TTIP and CETA, if passed, would create a free trade zone between the United States and European Union.

The proposed deal is controversial on both sides of the Atlantic. Those who support the agreements say by reducing regulation and tariffs it would create jobs and create additional revenue for all parties, but its detractors claim they would give companies an unacceptable level of power relative to governments and undermine quality and safety.

Writing in German daily Die Welt, columnist David Eckhart stated, "A further lowering of tariff barriers, the dismantling of bureaucracy and international standardisation are rather cost-effective methods to create greater wealth that future generations can benefit from."


Consumer rights activists take part in a march to protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in Frankfurt, Germany, September 17, 2016. (Reuters)

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told Bild that opponents of the deals were spreading "horror stories and lies" and that  instead they would "help Germany create jobs."

However, it seems most Germans and Americans remain to be convinced. A poll taken by the French market research company Ipsos found that 52 percent of Germans said they believe the free trade deals would weaken standards and result in the import of defective products.

Likewise, a Yougov poll in April showed that only 17 percent of Germans and 18 percent of Americans support the agreement, down from 55 percent and 53 percent respectively two years previously.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies