Concerns over the TTIP Trade Deal led thousands of Germans to march Saturday in the northern city of Hannover in opposition to the deal that they say would drive down wages, and weaken environmental protection and labor rights.
According to German police, an estimated 30,000 people took part in the peaceful protest rally in Hannover, with many carrying signs that read: “Stop TTIP!”
The anti-TTIP trade coalition comprised of trade unions, environmentalists, and consumer protection groups gathered in front of Hanover’s opera house before marching through the city center, according to Telesur.
— RT (@RT_com) April 23, 2016
On Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Germany to push for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Deal, saying it would create millions of jobs and increase trade by lowering tariffs.
Obama, speaking to the BBC, defended the deal, saying that the agreement would mean “new growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.”
“There’s still barriers that exist that prevent businesses and individuals that are providing services to each other to be able to do seamlessly. The main thing between the United State and Europe is trying to just break down some of the regulatory differences that make it difficult to do business back and forth.”
On Sunday, Obama will visit the city to open the Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial technology trade fair.
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The BBC notes that the aim of the TTIP trade deal is to “boost the economies of the EU and the US by removing or reducing barriers to trade and foreign investment.”
According to Deutche Welle, Obama is expected to meet with his friend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, before the trade show.
Obama praised Merkel’s leadership in an interview with Bild on Saturday amidst growing political upheaval over the deadlock among EU members on the question of refugees and asylum.
“She’s demonstrated real political and moral leadership. The politics around refugees and immigration is hard in any country, but I believe the best leaders are willing to take on the toughest issues, especially when it’s not easy.”
German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who also serves as deputy chancellor, predicted that the trade deal would “fail” if Washington did not offer concessions, according to the German business newspaper Handelsblatt.
“The Americans want to hold fast their ‘Buy American’ idea. We can’t accept that. They don’t want to open their public tenders to European companies. For me that goes against free trade.
“If the Americans hold fast to this position, we don’t need the free trade treaty. And TTIP will fail.”
— ITV News (@itvnews) April 23, 2016
Protester Florian Rohrich, who spoke to the BBC, compared the TTIP trade deal to a Trojan Horse infiltrating an already-established economic and political system.
“The TTIP between the American continent and Europe is very dangerous for the democracy, for our nature and for the rights of the workers. The rights in America for workers are much lower. It’s like the Trojan horse. They can’t change our whole system. But they will — because TTIP is written by the groups, by the companies, not by the politicians.”
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Protesters worry that the deal would lead to lower standards of consumer and environmental protection and safety at work.
Negotiations for the TTIP trade deal were initiated three years ago, and the next round will begin on Monday in New York.
[Photo by AP Images]