Obama’s trip – to open an industrial technology fair in the northern city of Hanover and hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders – was intended to lend momentum to flagging efforts to see the world’s biggest trade pact finalised this year.
But the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has run into major opposition, not least in Europe’s top economy Germany, where its foes have raised the spectre of eroding ecological and labour market standards and condemned the secrecy shrouding the talks.
A loose coalition of trade unions, environmentalists and consumer protection groups will join the colourful march, where activists from the anti-globalisation organisation Attac say they will dress up as “hippie” Merkel and Obama characters, hoisting banners reading “Free Love Instead of Free Trade!”
“We are not demonstrating against Obama but against TTIP,” said the head of another campaign group, Campact, Christoph Bautz, who expected around 50,000 people to attend the rally in Hanover.
“TTIP is deeply un-American and anti-European because it endangers our shared value: democracy.”
A similar protest in October in Berlin drew up to 250,000 people, according to organisers, signalling an uphill battle for the deal’s passage.
“TTIP was never going to be an easy undertaking, but it is still a very important one if you are interested in seeing prosperity in Europe grow,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters Friday.
“Our goal is to wrap up the negotiations this year and the chancellor will underline this in the talks with President Obama in Hanover.”
US Trade Representative Michael Froman told the German business daily Handelsblatt Friday that if the negotiators fall short, “there will be real doubts about whether we will ever get this agreement through”.