Tens of thousands of protesters marched in the German city of Hanover on Saturday to denounce a proposed EU-US free trade deal – on the eve of a visit by US President Obama who insists the pact would bring massive benefits.
Critics warn that it could drive down wages, undermine consumer rights and environmental protection.
“We are here to make it clear that we have concerns and that is true not only for the German and European population. Americans are worried too,” said German Green Party co-leader Simone Peter.
“We are standing on the side of civil society in the US and that is the message to Mr Obama.”
Activists also reject a free trade deal between Europe and Canada (CETA), which still needs final EU approval.
“Many people from NGOs have been able to look at the documents, for example in the English version of the CETA agreement, and there we can clearly see that these are not just fears,” said Hanni Gramann, of the ‘alter-globalisation’ organisation Attac.
She said it was a fact that companies will get special legal rights, that regulatory deals will be made and retirement provision hit.
As for the proposed EU-US deal, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to discuss the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Obama when he opens a huge trade show in Hanover on Sunday and Monday.
He says the pact would create millions of jobs and billions of dollars of benefits on both sides of the Atlantic.
Merkel said in her weekly podcast that wrapping up a deal would be a “win-win situation,” adding that “it is good for us as we will be able to appraise our competitors”.
The United States is Germany’s biggest trading partner.