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TAFTA protesters mass outside EU Council in Brussels (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

TAFTA protesters mass outside EU Council in Brussels (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
Hundreds of protesters have gathered outside the European Council building in Brussels on Friday to voice growing disapproval of TAFTA, a proposed Transatlantic Free Trade Area between the EU and the US, and to demand changes at the EU institutions.

The rainy streets of Brussels have been filled with hundreds of protesters, with security in the city stepped up since morning and police officers in helmets and shields ready to respond in case violence breaks out. The action was expected to draw protesters from France and Germany.

European farmers and pro-democracy activists demonstrate against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) near the European Commission headquarters in Brussels December 19, 2014. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Those protesting against TAFTA, also known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), worry that the new treaty will bring a large influx of GMO products, such as hormone-treated beef and genetically-modified corn, from the US to Europe.

A public campaign against the upcoming TAFTA deal between the US and Europe has been launched earlier this year.

The petition dubbed ‘Everyone against TAFTA’ started in June collecting thousands of signatures. Promoted by well-known artists, writers and politicians in France, the petition announced that “the citizens of Europe are against the transatlantic treaty.”

Rally against #TAFTA in #Brussels. LIVE NOW: http://t.co/hhsWPUsFHg#TTIPpic.twitter.com/lbMqfmhvl5

— Ruptly (@Ruptly) December 19, 2014

“These opaque negotiations are happening behind our back and the backs of Europeans and North Americans,” the petition says, “under the cover of a hypothetical relaunch of economic growth, and these negotiations are likely to lower our social, economic, health, cultural and environmental standards.”

In 2013 France said it wouldn’t sign the TTIP as long as the US continued spying on EU allies.

In November this year, a report stated that France, UK and Germany will block the trade deal all together if the mechanism of investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is included. Protesters have demonstrated against TAFTA across Europe.

En ce moment à Bruxelles 4000 pers manifestent contre le #TAFTA et Occupent le quartier des affaires. #d1920pic.twitter.com/hBf6KOHNdV

— mathilde larrere (@LarrereMathilde) December 19, 2014

READ MORE: EU-US historic trade deal: ‘Putting the corporation above the nation’

The controversial pact is destined to bring down regulatory barriers. Proponents of the deal say it will boost GDP in the EU by €100 billion (US$123 billion) and in the US by more than $100 billion, as well as create over 700,000 jobs in America. More free trade would increase investment, and widening export industries would add jobs.

Opponents of TTIP warn that these figures are not realistic and that cheaper goods and services would hurt the EU and help the US.

Boosting trade with the US may also come at a cost for European countries that may need to compromise on health, safety and environmental regulations.