TTIP is worth the effort

Written by Jean-Luc Demarty on 3 November 2014 in Opinion
Opinion

Trade deal is a great opportunity for the EU and the US to work together and improve their citizens' lives, argues Jean-Luc Demarty.

There are two main arguments I would like to make for the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP).First, it is a great opportunity to increase trade, create new jobs and stimulate growth. The European Union's recent trade deal with South Korea is a good example of how this can work. It boosted trade with Korea by more than 20 per cent, creating new opportunities for European citizens, but TTIP has even greater potential. Second, the partnership agreement has a strategic dimension. The rise of new economic powers is very welcome. However, it has implications for Europe's ability to protect and promote our values in a world that is often unstable and unpredictable. When it comes to things like open markets, democracy, the rule of law and respect for the individual, the US is, in fact, one of our closest allies. TTIP will help us defend these values together.

"We are working on TTIP because of the opportunities it will provide the European people as consumers and workers, through lower prices, better pay and more jobs"

In order to seize these two opportunities and fully reap their benefits, we need ambitious results on all three pillars of the agreement. Regarding market access, we want to remove most tariffs on goods, improve access for services and deliver a level playing field in public procurement for companies on both sides of the Atlantic. On the regulatory side, we want to make our regulations work better together in areas where our approaches are similar. This includes the automotive, pharmaceutical and mechanical engineering sectors. Europe and the US can work hand in hand and see what can be achieved together in areas on which both sides agree. If in some cases a consensus cannot be reached, we will carry on with our own approach. Furthermore, in terms of global trade rules, we want clear principles regarding issues such as open energy markets, sustainable development and how to ensure small and medium sized enterprises benefit from the deal.

TTIP has led to intense public debate, largely around two questions. Will the negotiations maintain the level of regulatory protection that we expect for our citizens? Are they being negotiated in a sufficiently open way, in everyone's interests? The answer to both these questions is 'yes'.

Both the EU and the US have stated clearly that there will be no reduction in levels of protection. The regulatory pillar will not affect industrial products or our standards on food safety. There will be no change to EU law on genetically modified organisms or the ban on hormones in meat. Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has also made it very clear that any investment tribunal mechanism in TTIP will not interfere with the right to regulate, or the jurisdiction of EU courts.

"By doing away with unnecessary and redundant inspections and tests, or by recognising where our regulation achieves the same safety results […], we are empowering small companies to drive growth alongside their larger partners"

When it comes to transparency, the answer is just as clear. First, the commission, as the EU's negotiating arm, shares all of its proposals, ideas and papers with national governments and the parliament. Second, we regularly consult a broad range of civil society organisations. Our most recent meeting had 350 participants from trade unions, consumer groups and NGOs, as well as business. Our most recent public consultation had almost 150,000 replies. Third, we have published the official negotiating documents that set out the EU's aims for the negotiations on our detailed TTIP website, along with our mandate to negotiate from member states, which was recently declassified by the council. This is just one of many new initiatives. In addition, home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmström announced at her hearing that she will make further moves towards more openness.

Finally, the EU only has one goal in mind when it comes to trade policy, and that is to benefit European citizens as much as possible. We are working on TTIP because of the opportunities it will provide the European people as consumers and workers, through lower prices, better pay and more jobs. Trade policy is about opening markets for European companies, but only because those companies are the channel through which trade can improve people's daily lives.

The companies in question are not all big multinationals. Smaller firms will likely benefit more from the partnership agreement. Big corporations can already afford large numbers of staff to deal with complex regulations in the US. This is much harder to do for their smaller rivals. By doing away with unnecessary and redundant inspections and tests, or by recognising where our regulation achieves the same safety results through different methods, we are empowering small companies to drive growth alongside their larger partners.

In any case, no one needs to take the commission's word for what this agreement will do. The final version will only become law if it is approved by parliament and all 28 member states.

There is a long way to go and a lot of work to do before that can happen. But given the promise of a stronger economy and a more stable Atlantic partnership, it will certainly be worth the effort.

About the author

Jean-Luc Demarty is director general at the European commission's DG trade

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