US-Europe trade accord draws 250,000 protesters in Berlin


A protest over a proposed US-European Union trade agreement drew an estimated quarter of a million people to Berlin on Saturday to complain the deal may cost jobs and erode environmental protections. The turnout “significantly” exceeded expectations, according to a statement by organisers backed by more than 170 German labor unions, nature conservation lobbies, charities and other groups. Protesters walked from the capital’s main railway station and passed near the parliament building. Some Europeans are concerned the trade pact will reduce food or environmental standards, endanger jobs and undermine governments. Advocates say the agreement will increase exports, helping to fuel economic expansion after the financial and sovereign debt crises eroded wealth and caused banks to rein in lending. The German Economy Ministry, in full page newspaper ads in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Saturday, said the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact won’t hurt the quality of life in Europe. It’s in the region’s interest to set rules for global trade, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel wrote. Opponents of the deal, which the US and EU began negotiating in 2013 to expand the world’s biggest economic relationship, also complained about a separate accord reached in August 2014 between Canada and the EU, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. “Together we are defending our democracy and taking to the streets for fair trade,” the organisers said. “The TTIP negotiations based on the current mandate must be stopped. The existing CETA contracts cannot be ratified in their current form.” The organisers said they submitted a petition on Wednesday to the Commission with more than 3 million signatures gathered last year against the two trade pacts. (By Nicholas Comfort/Bloomberg)

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