Trade pact: Obama pushes deal on Germany visit

KONFRONTASI-President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have given a joint push to a US-EU trade pact in the face of mounting opposition.

Obama said after talks with Merkel in the northern city of Hanover on Sunday that the  pact could be finalised by the end of the year.

"Angela and I agree that the United States and the European Union need to keep moving forward with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations," he said.

"I don't anticipate that we will be able to have completed ratification of a deal by the end of the year, but I do anticipate that we can have completed the agreement."

Both sides hope the pact will provide a shot in the arm to Western economies.

"As you see other markets like China beginning to develop and Asia beginning to develop and Africa growing fast, we have to make sure our businesses can compete," Obama said.

Merkel echoed that sentiment, saying the deal would be "extremely helpful" for growth in Europe.

"It is good for the German economy, it is good for the European economy," she said.

But Obama acknowledged there was popular opposition.

"People are unsettled by globalisation," he said. "People visibly see a plant moving and jobs lost and the narrative develops that this is weakening rather than strengthening the position of ordinary people and ordinary workers.

"The benefits often times are diffused."

Anti-TTIP protests

About 200 protesters gathered in Hanover on Sunday to demonstrate against the deal.

Organisers said they had expected considerably more people to turn out to protest against the planned free trade agreement that has drawn criticism on both sides of the Atlantic.

The protest started in the centre of the city and moved to the Congress Centre where Obama was to open the Hanover industrial trade fair with Merkel on Sunday evening.

Police in the city said that as many as 35,000 people had gathered in Hanover on Saturday to protest against the planned agreement.

Opponents of the deal fear that it will undermine standards and have accused negotiators of a lack of transparency in the talks.[mr/aje]