Thousands protest international trade agreements in Berlin

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Police said approximately 100,000 protesters rallied at Berlin’s main train station on Saturday as part of a nationwide protest in Germany against the historic free trade agreements the European Union is negotiating with the United States and Canada.

The organizers of the Stop TTIP CETA rally, an event opposing the EU’s Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the US and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada, said 250,000 people took part.

After a kick-off rally with speeches and musical performances, vast seas of demonstrators marched from the train station through the city to the city’s historic Victory Column.

Some were still waiting to begin the 5-kilometre march at the train station when the first protesters reached the column.

TTIP would create the world’s largest free trade zone of 800 million consumers, and proponents argue it could help revive the EU’s flagging economy by removing tariffs and creating common standards.

Critics say the trade deals will water down consumer and environmental protection provisions and give corporations too much power in the face of regulation.

“We need social and ecological guardrails for globalization,” protest organizers wrote on the event’s website. “But TTIP and CETA are going in the wrong direction.”

“They are drawing the wrong lessons from the financial crisis, strengthening international corporations and weakening small and medium businesses, also in agriculture,” organizers wrote.

TTIP negotiations began in June 2013, but progress has been slower than expected. The 11th round of talks is due to take place later this month in Miami, Florida.

The United States on Monday reached a final agreement with 11 other Pacific Rim countries to create the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 30-chapter trade pact that incorporates 800 million people with 40 per cent of the world’s economy.

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