Thousands of trade deal foes rally in Germany on the eve of Obama’s visit

Yahoo News – By Deborah Cole/AFP – April 23, 2016
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Photo: April 23, 2016 (AFP Photo/John Macdougall

Hanover (Germany) (AFP) – Tens of thousands of opponents of a proposed transatlantic trade deal poured onto German streets Saturday on the eve of a visit by US President Barack Obama.

A loose coalition of trade unions, environmentalists and consumer protection groups in the northern city of Hanover said they drew a crowd of 90,000 to a march and rally outside the city’s opera house.

Police mobilised a large force to keep the peace and put attendance at 35,000.

Obama’s trip — to open an industrial technology fair and hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders — was intended to lend momentum to flagging efforts to see the world’s biggest trade pact finalised this year.

On a visit to London on Saturday, Obama sought to address sceptics’ fears head-on, admitting that some past trade agreements had “served the interests of large corporations and not necessarily of workers in the countries that participate in them”.

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Photo: Protesters against the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) wear masks of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama during a rally on the eve of Obama’s vist to Hannover, on April 23, 2016 (AFP Photo/John MacDougall)

The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has run into major opposition, not least in Europe’s top economy Germany, where critics have raised the spectre of eroding ecological and labour market standards and condemned secrecy shrouding the talks.

As the whistle-blowing crowd moved through Hanover in unseasonably cold weather, one banner reading “Don’t give TTIP a chance” featured the image of a bull tagged “privatisation” and a cow branded “democracy”.

A mock coffin was emblazoned with the words “Democracy killed by money”.

Dieter Berlin, a 73-year-old pensioner, attended the rally with his wife Hanna, waving a banner reading “No GMOs on our plates” in a reference to genetically modified foods.

Berlin said he had turned out over fears of a race to the bottom with free trade.

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Photo: Thousands of people, a mixture of trade unions, environmentalists and consumer protection groups, marched through central Hanover to protest TTIP (AFP Photo/John Macdougall)

“We want to keep our educational standards, not adopt the American educational system. And we want to hold onto our environmental standards too,” he said.

His friend Heino Kirchhof, 73, said TTIP would widen the gulf “between poor and rich — that is going to threaten the stability of the world.”

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Posted by Teri Perticone

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