Just minutes after the vote on the TTIP resolution in the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament had taken place, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation together with the Transatlantic Institute of the American Jewish Committee held a debate on the impact of TTIP on our everyday lives.
Most of what the European Commission has been doing in the past months is to make the process more transparent and to demystify the negotiations. However, the narrative both in the pro-TTIP, as well as the anti-TTIP camp is still very much general or the arguments are so technical no one understands them.
The pro-TTIP camp argues that TTIP will bring economic growth and strengthen the global partnership between the EU and the US. On the other side, the arguments are often linked to anti-globalization and anti-Americanism. “And cold numbers will certainly not win over European citizens hearts or minds”, as Dennis Novy, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick and Specialist Adviser to the House of Lords on TTIP, put it. At the same time the debate has become so polarized that a balanced public debate has become nearly impossible – either you are in favor or you are against TTIP; there is no in-between.
Based on concrete examples the panelists tried to portray the concrete benefits and maybe also losses European consumers and businesses might face. Daniel Mitrenga, Chief Economist at the German Association of Family Businesses DIE FAMILIENUNTERNEHMER, explained how medium sized enterprises are penalized by double testing procedures. Sutter, for example, a 2nd generation producer of medical devices, who is already exporting its products to the US, needs to have all devices undergo two testing procedures. Mr. Sutter estimates that 2 headcounts on average are dealing just with the stipulations for the US market delivering exactly the same product as on the European market. How great would it be to have a procedure through which a product tested once is accepted on both sides of the Atlantic!
Consumers too see many possible positive impacts on their lives through TTIP, but Isabelle Buscke, Head of the Brussels Office of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations, also reminded us of the fact that TTIP is not just another free trade agreement. Agreeing on common standards can only be done if they are maintained at the highest level possible. One example of insecurity she gave is the possibility the US regulatory bodies would have to control the export and correct labelling of GMO products on their way to Europe, while the US has no tracking system for GMO foods in place. It is thus uncertain if the US would be able to adequately track those products. In order to guarantee the highest standards, it would be necessary to have the possibility to regulate independently in case a common standard is not found. Dennis Novy agreed with Isabelle that it will probably be very difficult to achieve common standards on existing regulations, but that a more coordinated approach could lead to common standards for technologies of the future. Driver-less cars is just one of the many such examples.
Dennis Novy underlined the fact that “TTIP is certainly a good thing for Europe, but it is not problem-free”. He also pointed at the lack of certainty of any prediction about the concrete economic gains of TTIP. In his view it is still too early to tell as the negotiations are still ongoing. However, some great stories can be told about the possible benefits of TTIP: lower prices for consumers, higher wages, especially in the export-oriented sector, and less protectionism.
In summary, as Marietje Schaake MEP, Member of the Committee on International Trade and spokes-person on TTIP of the ALDE Group, said “TTIP will bring neither Armageddon, nor World Peace”.