Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to take part in protest rallies across Germany to oppose a huge transatlantic trade deal between the US and the European Union (EU), amid a push by Washington to have the deal concluded by next January.
“We hope that more than 250,000 participants will join in the march nationwide” on Saturday, said Roland Suess of the anti-globalization group Attac.
The protest action is scheduled to take place in seven German cities, including the country’s capital, Berlin, and its economic hub, Frankfurt.
The US and the EU started discussions on the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in 2013, intent on establishing the world’s largest free trade market of some 850 million consumers.
A new round of talks is due to begin in October as US President Barack Obama wants to have the pact finalized before he leaves office in January.
While exporters support the deal because it promises lower tariffs, less red tape and a wider base of consumers for their goods and services, consumers fear it would override the EU’s labor market and environmental standards and generate more outsourcing and further unemployment.
Another thorny issue regarding the US-EU trade pact is plans for a special court to hear cases by corporations against governments over breaches of regulatory issues, which opponents regard as granting companies effective veto over public policy.
Some 28 percent of respondents to a recent survey on the trade pact in Germany said they doubted if free trade could really bring benefits. More than half (52 percent) said it would lead to lower standards and increasingly substandard products.
European governments are also divided over the planned trade deal.
While the French government has opposed the deal, with Prime Minister Manuel Valls demanding an end to the talks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed support for it.
However, Germany’s Vice-Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel declared last month that the talks on the TTIP had virtually failed. He also said that, “Europeans must not give in to (the Americans’) demands,” indicating a seeming rift among German statesmen over the issue.