Business representatives defend TTIP
A senior official at Siemens says the transatlantic trade talks between the EU and US are "still on track", but admits more needs to be done to "sell" the agreement to critics.
TTIP | Photo credit: Fotolia
Speaking in Brussels on Friday, Clemens Betzel, head of Siemens' government affairs, moved to dispel the "myths" surrounding the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), but admitted this was a "hard sell".
He was one of several senior representatives of the business community speaking at a news conference at Brussels press club in support of TTIP. The deal has come under recent attack from several senior political figures, including the German economy minister, who said the talks were effectively "dead."
Betzel admitted that supporters of TTIP had "probably not" have been as vocal as they should have been in explaining the merits of the agreement.
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He said, "Indeed, the European Commission has asked us to speak up more for TTIP and dispel some of the many myths surrounding it. I am not afraid of talking up TTIP but this is not easy, partly because the media sees it as a non-story. The problem is that, on the contrary, it's a very important story."
TTIP "myths" include, he said, the suggestion that it will only benefit big business and major interests groups.
He said small businesses and start-up companies stood to gain more than big companies, and SMEs would find it easier to export under TTIP.
Without naming names, he also took a swipe at some political figures who had been disparaging towards TTIP, saying, "Too many politicians seem intent on constructing a negative trend of opinion towards TTIP."
Betzel, however, says that TTIP should solely be about trade tariffs while also including other aspects of international trade, such as public procurement.
He also said the talks should be allowed to proceed until negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic had secured an "ambitious and comprehensive" agreement.
"In terms of the duration of the talks, we are still only at the half way stage," he said.
"My message is that TTIP is a great opportunity, for both SMEs and large companies like mine, so let's seize it."
Rene Van Sloten, an executive director with CEFIC, the umbrella body for the chemicals industry in Europe, also spoke out in support of TTIP, saying the agreement could save his sector, which accounts for 15 per cent of the global chemicals market, up to €1.5m in trade tariffs each year.
"Some have argued that TTIP will result in lower standards of protection but that is not the case. TTIP is good for industry and good for jobs and growth."
Van Sloten, whose organisation represents thousands of SMEs, said, "TTIP, when agreed, can also provide a template for other international trade agreements around the world."
Meanwhile, four campaign groups - Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth Europe, LobbyControl and WeMove.EU - have again criticised "big industry lobbyists" over the influence they say they have exerted over the ongoing TTIP negotiations.
A statement issued on Friday said, "For the fourth year, the EU-US trade negotiations are continuing behind closed doors, despite the far-reaching consequences which a deal will have on consumer protection, health and environmental standards, as well as democratic decision-making in Europe."
It went on, "Even though citizens have every right and reason to be concerned about this prospect, negotiation texts remain under lock and key leaving them in the dark about the talks.
"At the same time, corporate lobbyists have enjoyed privileged access to EU negotiators and their advisers; from the very beginning they have been able to steer negotiations from the inside, sometimes even upon invitation from the Commission."
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