Politicians and the media might have been too optimistic in 2013 when claiming that a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) should be done “on one tank of gas” (US-Vice President Joe Biden). After 18 months and numerous rounds of negotiations, it has become obvious that concerns about the agreement have grown. The “Stop TTIP coalition” collected more than 1 million signatures calling for a European Citizens Initiative to withdraw the TTIP mandate. In view of the increasing criticism from across the political spectrum, the European Commission opened a public consultation on Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms and European Council finally allowed the publication of the negotiation mandate.
On December 12, 1901 the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi received the first long distance radio transmission across the Atlantic that brought Europe and America a little closer together. 113 years later Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom together with Open Europe organized a debate with European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and experts from the US and the EU on the challenges and the future of TTIP. Cecilia Malmström opened her remarks by pointing out “This is not just another trade negotiation!” The strategic goal of TTIP is not only economical, it is also to “renew a partnership” in the words of Commissioner Malmström. A partnership to strengthen democracy, the rule of law, human rights and open markets.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is not a simple trade agreement, it is a negotiation between the world’s two largest trading blocks. “From a quantitative point of view the advantages are enormous”, explained Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Paqué, former Minister of Finance of Saxony-Anhalt and Dean of the Faculty of Economics at the University of Magdeburg. It would deliver growth and incentives for innovation in both the US and the EU. More importantly it would invigorate the strategic partnership between both sides of the Atlantic. Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Paqué, who is also the Vice President of Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom’s board, agreed with Commissioner Malmström on the strategic importance of TTIP: “beyond the crucial quantitative gains, TTIP would have an enormous qualitative impact.” Indeed, in the context of the shift in our countries towards a knowledge-based economy highly reliant on the export of services, reducing barriers between the EU and the US will increase competitiveness. But also in geopolitical terms TTIP could have an enormous impact. If the agreement could address trade in the energy sector, it could, in the long run, improve Europe’s energy diversification and thus reduce the reliance on Russian gas.
As TTIP is an agreement of a different kind, Cecilia Malmström also insisted on the necessity of negotiating in a different way: “that means that this agreement needs to be negotiated openly and transparently.” As the approval of both the US Congress and the European Parliament will be needed to approve the agreement, public support is not only important as a principle, but also from a pragmatic point of view. “The European Parliament has teeth, it can bite and it will bite if the agreement does not address sufficiently people’s concerns”, warned liberal MEP Marietje Schaake, who is both a member of the Committee on International Trade as well as of the Delegation for Relations with the United States. But, Marietje Schaake is more worried about the lack of debate on certain key issues. She argued that the heated debate on transparency and de-regulation of certain sectors is overshadowing a much needed debate on other issues, such as financial services, government procurement, energy, the role of regulators and intellectual property rights, just to name a few.
Louisa Santos, Director of International Affairs at BUSINESSEUROPE agreed with MEP Schaake on the fact that the debate is highly emotional and focuses more on globalization in general than on the issues at stake with TTIP. She warned about the signal it would send to the world if the EU and the US would fail and drew the attention to the consequences of not having TTIP. In this respect Ken Levinson, Executive Director of the Washington International Trade Association, recalled that the responsibility to achieve a good agreement does not only lie in the hands of the US government and the EU Commission, but also in those of the business community and civil society. In Levinson’s view the challenges TTIP is facing are absolutely normal and negotiations are going at an orderly pace. However, TTIP opposition seems to be firstly more visible and secondly more successful in shaping the debate. Levinson thus calls especially the business community, including SMEs to make their voice in favor of TTIP heard. Undeniably, now that the honeymoon phase of the negotiations is over, Marietje Schaake encouraged the audience to become actively involved: “we need more stories, color and faces in the debate.”
Read Commissioner Malmström’s full speech here
For further information on ISDS, read our interview (in German) with Dr. Frank Hoffmeister here