The ongoing negotiations for a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement, or TTIP, are keeping many people quite busy. This is no surprise. Never has a trade agreement been as ambitions and comprehensive. Never had a trade negotiation received as much public attention.
In the US, the delay in passing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) – which would facilitate the legislative passage of major trade agreements such as TTIP – and the postponed vote in the European Parliament on a resolution backing the European Commission in the negotiations have raised concerns among some that a lack in political belief is stalling progress in the negotiations.
It is true that in some areas, such as genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), geographical indications (GI) and investment protection, discussions between the EU and the US remain difficult and contentious. In both the EU and the US, people are concerned that TTIP will remove or lower standards and allow for companies to bypass or prevent national legislation. Much of this contributes to a predominantly negative public perception of TTIP, especially in the EU.
Existing concerns need to be addressed, and the UK government and the European Commission have made great effort to bring clarity and transparency into the negotiation process. This must continue, but the discussion of concerns must not overshadow what is at the hearty of TTIP: improving the conditions for trade and investment across the Atlantic.
The last negotiation round in New York saw negotiators address, amongst other things, tariffs, public procurement and regulatory questions in the nine sectors covered by the deal. Specific sector examples included the exploration of common safety rules for cars, discussion on textiles labelling schemes and assessment of the equivalence of EU and US Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) systems.
With the 10th round of negotiations taking place in July 2015 in Brussels, negotiations will hopefully proceed as planned and negotiators will continue to make steady progress on topics covered by the three pillars of the negotiations (Market Access, Rules and Regulatory Cooperation).
At the G7 summit in June 2015, US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged a rapid conclusion to the trade talks. The passage of TPA and an approval of the European Parliament resolution will hopefully also soon send a positive signal to move forward quickly.
In order to highlight the real TTIP opportunity, however, the business community must be better at illustrating the direct benefits this important agreement can bring to people and businesses who will be directly affected by it. Because an agreement on things like common safety rules and labelling schemes or equivalence of practices will make a large, tangible difference for many. This is what we need to talk about.
Emanuel Adam, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, BritishAmerican Business (BAB) for British-American Business Council (BABC)