PARIS: Thousands of people demonstrated Saturday in France, Spain and Poland against a EU-Canada free trade deal and a far more ambitious agreement with the United States.
Activists charge that the Canada deal will set a dangerous precedent and open the way for a similar but far more sweeping pact with Washington, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
TTIP has already run into trouble, with the EU saying it will not be agreed before President Barack Obama leaves office in January, as was initially planned.
“The European governments must today hear the refusal of the their people,” said Attac, an international movement seeking alternatives in the globalisation process, and one of the main organisers of the protest.
In France, about 1,200 people marched in Paris, according to the police, but the organisers put the number at 5,000. There were also protests in Lyon and Toulouse.
The EU-Canada pact has already run into trouble with lawmakers in the small Belgian region of Wallonia on Friday voting to block it.
The parliament vote in the French-speaking part of southern Belgium threatens to derail the long-delayed signing by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of the pact, known as CETA, in Brussels later this month.
In order to be signed by Trudeau at the EU-Canada summit on October 27, the deal must first be backed by all 28 EU member states at a trade ministers’ meeting on Tuesday.
CETA was formally concluded in 2014 after five years of talks.
Except for a few sensitive agricultural products, CETA abolishes virtually all tariffs between Canada and the EU. Acquiescing to a European demand, Canada has agreed to substanially open up its public procurement to EU companies, which until now were basically barred from such contracts.
Its backers say the deal will boost trade in goods and services between Europe and Canada by more than 20 percent, and total EU GDP by about 12 billion euros ($13.4 billion) per year.
But it is opposed by a wide array of groups, who say it is a test model to push through the even more controversial EU-US trade deal, still in negotiation.
“These accords use growth to put into question social and environmental norms to help benefit multinationals,” said French unionist Murielle Guilbert.
Around 1,000 also people marched in Warsaw and a few hundreds in Krakow. “We don’t want TTIP, CETA,” they chanted.
“Human souls first and profits later,” they shouted.
Several thousands marched in the Spanish capital Madrid. Many shouted: “No to poverty, inequality and to TTIP.”