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Multiple petitions lodged at top German court against EU-Canada trade deal

Germany's top court is hearing joint complaints from hundreds of thousands of opponents of a proposed CETA, EU-Canada trade agreement. Economy minister Sigmar Gabriel has asked the court to back CETA.

Germany's Constitutional Court has begun hearing a challenge to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. In multiple petitions, hundreds of thousands of CETA opponents asked the court to prevent the government from endorsing the deal at an EU ministers gathering next week, arguing that it violates democratic principles.

"Not a single parliament elected by me - neither the Bundestag nor the European Parliament - was given a mandate to negotiate for CETA," Roman Huber, an activist with Mehr Demokratie (More Democracy), said on Wednesday. The organization has joined a broad alliance of pressure groups and politicians who have campaigned against CETA and presented the court, in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe, with the suit.

The EU and Canada formally concluded CETA negotiations in 2014, but the deal has since faced fierce opposition across Europe, delaying its implementation. EU ministers plan to approve CETA on October 18, paving the way for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sign it at a summit in Brussels on October 27.

Opponents argue that CETA would hand too much power to multinational companies and undermine consumer and environmental protection standards. Activists also charge that it would set a dangerous precedent and open the way for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a similar but far more ambitious agreement with the United States.

Watch video 01:19

Anti CETA Voices in Germany

'Very complex agreement'

Economy Minister and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told the court that stalling CETA would throw Germany's credibility into doubt. "I do not want to imagine what that could mean for Europe," he told the court arguing that no one around the world would have confidence in the capacity of Germany and the EU to sign contracts.

In his opening remarks, Constitutional Court President Andreas Vosskuhle said both "proponents and opponents of the agreement often tended to simplify ... a very complex agreement." He said the court had "to take sufficient account of the complexity of the subject matter" in making an assessment of the agreement, which took about seven years to negotiate.

Nevertheless, in an usually fast turnaround, the court plans to announce its decision on Thursday.

mkg/jm (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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