Mass protest against TTIP and CETA to take place in Berlin

Over 30 organisations are teaming up to protest TTIP and CETA in Berlin on 10 October. [mehr demokratie/Flickr]

More than 30 organisations are teaming up for a major demonstration against TTIP and CETA, with concerns ranging from the end of cultural diversity in Europe to devastating effects the deals could have in developing countries. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Over 50,000 demonstrators are expected to gather in front of Berlin’s central train station on 10 October to protest the EU’s planned free trade agreements with the United States and Canada, TTIP and CETA. Special public transit lines and hundreds of buses are planned to meet the extra demand.

The event is a joint effort by more than 30 organisations including “Stop TTIP and CETA”, the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) with its member trade unions, agricultural and consumer associations as well as environmental, cultural and development organisations.

Together, they are criticising the lack of transparency surrounding negotiations and condemning the agreements as a threat to ecological and social standards.

>>Read: ?AmCham Germany President: Not all positions in TTIP negotiations can be made public

“Nothing will become of fair global trade and just globalisation if workers’ rights are hidden in some sections on sustainability,” said DGB chairman Stefan Körzell on Tuesday (25 August) at a presentation of the campaign in Berlin. “

They must be explicitly positive in their wording and enforceable. We need mechanisms for disputes and sanctions,” he emphasised.

“TTIP opens doors for Apple, Google or Amazon”

Olaf Zimmermann, Managing Director of the German Cultural Council, is concerned the agreements will endanger diversity.

“This is about preserving book price fixing, copyright law and public broadcasting,” he said. “And about whether companies like Apple, Google or Amazon gain even easier market access in Europe.”

TTIP is no “small political detail” for the cultural and media sector but, rather, a matter concerning its own existence, Zimmermann said. “The EU wants concessions from the United States in the automotive sector, for example, and is using us as a negotiating chip.”

Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel, chief of the development NGO Brot für die Welt, called TTIP an “attempt to force the rules of rich industrialised countries upon global trade”.

Poorer countries of the Global South, in particular, have no chance at preserving their own interests, she warned.

>>Read: France’s Socialists say ‘non’, ‘no’, ‘nein’! to TTIP

“TTIP does not set any social or labour standards, only those for maintaining the competitiveness of the United States and the EU. Companies, alone, are allowed to make complaints.”

Chairman of Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), Hubert Weiger, said the precautionary principle, applying to consumer protection and GMO legislation in the EU, is being eliminated by the free trade agreements.

German industry: red lines already exist

Meanwhile, the Federation of German Industries (BDI) praised the planned trade deals.

“TTIP is a chance to strengthen the competitiveness of German businesses”, explained Stefan Mair, a member of the BDI’s executive board.

The European Commission and German Federal Government have drawn red lines in negotiations, standards will not be lowered and the agreements will not curtail the rights of the parliaments, he said.

Zimmermann, on the other hand, said national parliaments should vote on TTIP immediately.

Speaking at a public town hall event in Jena on Monday (24 August) evening, German Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel admitted that negotiations are not transparent enough. This has created many misconceptions, he said.

As a result, Gabriel called on citizens to get involved: “The Europeans must strive for reasonable standards, otherwise they will set others and those will most certainly be worse.”

Negotiations between the United States and the European Union to forge an ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) started in July 2013.

If successful, the deal would cover more than 40% of global GDP and account for large shares of world trade and foreign direct investment.

The EU-US trade relationship is already the biggest in the world. Traded goods and services between the two partners are worth €2 billion daily.

Brussels and Washington have set an ambitious goal of completing negotiations by the end of 2015.

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