• Some Europeans fear TTIP will lead to lower quality of life
  • German Economy Minister pushes back with ads in newspapers

A protest over a proposed U.S.-European Union trade agreement drew an estimated quarter of a million people to Berlin on Saturday to complain the deal may cost jobs and erode environmental protections.

The turnout “significantly” exceeded expectations, according to a statement by organizers backed by more than 170 German labor unions, nature conservation lobbies, charities and other groups. Protesters walked from the capital’s main railway station and passed near the parliament building.

Protesters gather to demonstrate in Berlin on Oct. 10.
Protesters gather to demonstrate in Berlin on Oct. 10.
Photographer: Axel Schmidt/Getty Images

Some Europeans are concerned the trade pact will reduce food or environmental standards, endanger jobs and undermine governments. Advocates say the agreement will increase exports, helping to fuel economic expansion after the financial and sovereign debt crises eroded wealth and caused banks to rein in lending.

The German Economy Ministry, in full page newspaper ads in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Saturday, said the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact won’t hurt the quality of life in Europe. It’s in the region’s interest to set rules for global trade, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel wrote.

Opponents of the deal, which the U.S. and EU began negotiating in 2013 to expand the world’s biggest economic relationship, also complained about a separate accord reached in August 2014 between Canada and the EU, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

“Together we are defending our democracy and taking to the streets for fair trade,” the organizers said. “The TTIP negotiations based on the current mandate must be stopped. The existing CETA contracts cannot be ratified in their current form.”

The organizers said they submitted a petition on Wednesday to the Commission with more than 3 million signatures gathered last year against the two trade pacts.

European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem may propose eliminating 97 percent of tariffs in trade with the U.S. at a meeting in Miami this month to avoid failure in the talks, Der Spiegel reported on Saturday, without citing anyone.

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