October 15, 2016 - 6:03 AM
WARSAW, Poland - Hundreds of people protested Saturday in the Polish capital against free-trade agreements that the European Union is pursuing with the U.S. and Canada, TTIP and CETA, 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, both from the political left and right, also taking part.
The Polish protesters argue that free trade deals 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 and contaminated with harmful chemicals.
They called on the Polish government to reject the deals. The protesters rallied in front of the Agriculture Ministry in Warsaw ahead of a march to the prime minister's office.
The EU trade ministers are scheduled to vote next Tuesday on whether to approve CETA. If they unanimously approve it, the deal could be signed with Canada on October 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 CETA. 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 just about all tariffs and custom duties while at the same time guaranteeing European standards on anything from food and health quality to labour 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 already to massive protests in several member states.
News from © The Associated Press, 2016