Poles Protest US, Canada Trade Deals

Poles Protest US, Canada Trade Deals

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Hundreds of people protested Saturday in Warsaw against free-trade agreements that the European Union is pursuing with the U.S. and Canada, saying they will hurt Polish farmers and consumers.

The rally was organized by a non-governmental group, Akcja Democracja, with trade unions and several small opposition parties.

The Polish protesters argue that the free trade deals — called TTIP and CETA — will allow an influx of food from North America that will destroy local farming, and also hurt consumers by allowing in foods that are genetically modified.

Rallying in front of the Agriculture Ministry ahead of a march to the prime minister's office, they urged the Polish government to reject the deals.

The EU trade ministers are scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to approve CETA. If they unanimously approve it, the deal could be signed with Canada on Oct. 27.

Environmental activists and trade unions across Europe have expressed fears that the deals could worsen local standards for food, work and industry.

On Friday, the Belgian region of Wallonia rejected the CETA deal. All EU nations need to back it, and under Belgium's constitutional rules, one region can effectively veto such a deal for the whole country.

The EU says the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement deal with Canada will improve trade, create jobs and remove almost all tariffs and custom duties while at the same time guaranteeing European standards on anything from food and health quality to labor rights.

For many, the CETA is only a prelude to TTIP, an even bigger deal that is being negotiated with the United States and which has given rise to massive protests already in several EU nations.