BRUSSELS — Thousands of demonstrators marched at the European Union headquarters on Tuesday to protest trans-Atlantic trade talks with the United States and a planned deal with Canada, claiming they would hurt labor and consumer rights while undermining environmental protection.
Representatives of unions, social organizations, human rights and farming groups snarled evening rush-hour traffic in the heart of the Belgian capital hoping the talks with Washington on the so-called TTIP trade deal fail to get enough European backing.
They also hope there will be enough of a groundswell of opposition to make sure that the CETA deal with Canada doesn’t get the necessary parliamentary approvals in EU member states.
Backers of both deals say that they will be essential in boosting trade and jobs in the future. Outside the EU headquarters Tuesday, the talk was different.
“We are against these trade deals because they are a threat for the environment, for health, for labor regulations and they give so much power to multinational corporations,” said Greenpeace Europe spokesman Mark Brady.
Well over 100,000 demonstrators had already come out in a half-dozen German cities over the weekend to press the same point.
EU trade ministers will be discussing both TTIP and CETA at their informal meeting in Bratislava on Friday and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom was hoping for strong backing for the Canadian deal, which is finished but still needs approval.
“Canada is a country that, more than most others around the world, shares our European values,” Malmstrom told the Belgian parliament Wednesday. “To put it another way, Canada is not the United States.”
Business also strongly backs the deal with Canada. Luisa Santos, Director for International Relations at the BusinessEurope federation, stressed that “CETA is not going to impose (on) us to eat hormone beef or hormone chicken or chlorinated chicken, these kind of things.”