Thousands stage massive rally in Brussels against US, Canada trade deals
More than 5,000 demonstrators have staged a mass protest outside the EU headquarters in Brussels against the controversial European Union deals with Washington and Canada.
Police said on Tuesday that the protesters had gathered to express anger at the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States, and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada.
The angry demonstrators chanted slogans against the deals holding placards reading, “TTIP, CETA, we don’t want them.”
“We are sure to be the big losers. This will be a shock to agriculture,” AFP quoted Stephane Delogne, a farmer, attending the demonstration.
Local trade unions, environmental groups and farmers called for European leaders to halt the upcoming talks with Washington on the deal.
Police helicopters hovered overhead in the area and most of the main avenues around the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, were closed to traffic.
Also on Tuesday, Greenpeace activists held a protest in front of the US mission in the Swiss city of Geneva against the TTIP.
On September 17, similar mass protests were held in Germany against the TTIP and CETA.
Demonstrators are skeptical of the benefits of the controversial deals.
Brussels and Washington began negotiating the TTIP in 2013. However, the talks have hit obstacles amid widespread fears in Europe that the deal would undercut the EU’s standards in key areas such as health and welfare.
A new round of talks is due in October, with US President Barack Obama hoping a deal can be concluded before he leaves office early next year.
EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstroem recently said reaching the deadline “became less likely as time went on,” adding, “There will [be] a treaty with the US but maybe after a natural pause to give time to a new administration in the US.”
She also defended CETA, which has already been negotiated with Canada and is due for signature in October. However, resistance late in the game has forced the EU to seek ratification of the deal.
“Canada is not the United States. Just because they are next to each other on a map does not make them the same,” the EU commissioner said.
Critics say the TTIP and CETA could further complicate the situation in the job market. They say the deals would also have huge environmental implications as they give firms and companies more of a leeway to expand their activities at the expense of public safety.