Education International
Education International

Germany: Education unions join in massive protest against EU-US trade deal

published 14 October 2015 updated 19 October 2015

An alliance of civil society organisations, including trade unions, mobilised more than 150,000 people to protest against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, making it the biggest manifestation the country has seen in decades.

On 10 October, the streets of the German capital Berlin were overflowing with people, including members of the Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft, an Education International (EI) affiliate, protesting against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a secret free-trade deal being negotiated between the European Union (EU) and the United States. The TTIP opponents say it is undemocratic and threatens consumer and worker rights.

Education International affiliates are concerned that the trade agreement may result in seeing public entities, such as education systems, included in the deal to be privatised. However, with zero transparency around what is currently being negotiated, it is unknown what any deal will include.

New York Times video about the protests in Berlin

But supporters of the deal, which lowers trade barriers, say it would boost economies and create jobs. The German government supports the trade pact, with Economic Minister Sigmar Gabriel warning of “scaremongering” in a letter published in several German newspapers.

Talks on the TTIP are due to finish next year. If agreed it would be the biggest trade deal of its kind. It would create the world’s largest free-trade zone, encompassing some 800 million consumers, and harmonise regulation between the EU and North America in areas ranging from food safety law to environmental rules and banking regulations.

The European commission reckons that the TTIP could boost the size of the EU economy by €120bn (£85bn) – equal to 0.5% of GDP – and the US economy by €95bn, or 0.4% of GDP, while the UK could be £10bn better off.

However, opposition has escalated over the past year in Germany and other European countries, with critics pointing out that the deal will give too much power to multinational companies at the expense of consumers and workers.

An agreement, still being finalised, was also announced this week on another trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), involving 12 countries, including the US, Japan and Australia. The details of TPP also remain secret.