Brussels (AFP) – Several thousand demonstrators gathered outside EU institutions in Brussels on Tuesday to protest against huge transatlantic trade deals linking Europe with Canada and the United States.
The protests came after mass rallies in German cities on Saturday against the European Union’s planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States, and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada.
Belgian police told AFP that over 5,000 people responded to the call in the EU capital, with most of the main avenues around the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, closed off to traffic.
“TTIP, CETA, we don’t want them,” protesters shouted, as police helicopters hovered loudly overhead.
“We are sure to be the big losers. This will be a shock to agriculture,” said farmer Stephane Delogne.
The EU and US began negotiating TTIP in 2013, aiming to create the world’s biggest free trade market of 850 million consumers.
But the talks have become bogged down amid widespread fears in Europe that the deal would undercut the 28-nation bloc’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 in January.
Cecilia Malmstroem, the EU commissioner for trade, warned on Tuesday that reaching that deadline “became less likely as time went on.”
“There will a treaty with the US but maybe after a natural pause to give time to a new administration in the US,” Malmstroem told RTBF radio in Belgium.
Malmstroem also defended the Canada deal, which has already been negotiated and is due for signature in October.
But resistance late in the game has forced the EU to seek ratification of the Canada deal by national and regional parliaments across Europe, which could take months and more likely years to obtain.
“Canada is not the United States. Just because they are next to each other on a map does not make them the same,” Malmstroem said, as she urged swift ratification.