EU Negotiators Should Wake Up and Engage the Public in TTIP
Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake argues in this article for atlantic-community.org, "Just as the Eurozone is climbing its way out of the recession and growth seems to pick up slowly, the Commission should use TTIP to provide those struggling businesses, whether multinationals, SME's or self-employed professionals, with a perspective of new growth and jobs. Surveys show citizens expect more growth to come from the global economy than from EU policies. TTIP is where the two meet."
As Brussels awakes from its 2-month summer hibernation, policymakers, parliamentarians and business representatives alike may discover that their US counterparts have continued outreach efforts to US stakeholders for consultation and support. With the second negotiation round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) coming up, the EU's negotiating team risks looking like a paper tiger with a negotiating mandate that merely exists in theory and lacks input and public support from Member States, businesses and civil society organizations as well as trade unions and the public. This seriously undermines the EU's negotiation position and the European Commission should step up its game to consult, involve and mobilize the European side to work towards the best possible deal.
Where the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Mr. Michael Froman, has actively engaged with the US business community in public discussions over the summer, the United States International Trade Committee (USITC) carries out several new sector-specific studies on the effects of TTIP and will soon embark on a small and medium enterprises (SME) road show throughout the country. The Commission seems less proactive. Yes, it has launched an informative website with orderly summarized widely available information and it has set up a twitter account (@EU_TTIP_TEAM). It diligently organized a debriefing session in the European Parliament and a civil society dialogue. I welcome all these efforts, but they look more like courtesy calls (to prevent another ACTA setback) and lack a sense of urgency and the enthusiasm to make the TTIP negotiations process a true European joint effort and success.
The opportunities are manifold. Just as the Eurozone is climbing its way out of the recession and growth seems to pick up slowly, the Commission should use TTIP to provide those struggling businesses, whether multinationals, SME's or self-employed professionals, with a perspective of new growth and jobs. Surveys show citizens expect more growth to come from the global economy than from EU policies. TTIP is where the two meet. Why not have the Commission representations in all EU Member States, who for the last years have been associated with bookkeepers enforcing the EU 3% deficit rule, reach out to businesses to ask them which challenges and interests they have in transatlantic trade relations (or the EU's common commercial policy in general). The Commission should also use the expertise at universities in developing cutting-edge proposals on regulatory cooperation. Independent research should help inform the public and stakeholders alike.
TTIP could be a true joint effort between citizens, businesses, politicians and the European institutions. This is a time where the EU has to deliver by cutting red tape through reaching a comprehensive, future proof trade deal with our largest trading partner. Such a deal should boost economic growth and employment. But instead, the Commission seems to lay low, avoiding public debates on issues that will be controversial. But that will come back as a boomerang. TTIP, like any trade agreement requires give and take, something Commissioner De Gucht has been telling the White House from the beginning. But that notion requires appreciation beyond technocrats as well.
So instead of focussing on the process, which Brussels policymakers too often do, it is time to shift the discussion to substantial issues. Inviting businesses to come up with input, joint submissions with their US counterparts on technical regulatory issues or involving European researchers, start-ups and engineers to make sure we have an answer to the American machinery that will undoubtedly put its mark on the final deal. I will contribute to this process by hosting dedicated stakeholder meetings in the Parliament and also in the Member State I know best, The Netherlands. These meetings will tackle one issue at a time instead of framing the TTIP negotiations as one big fairy tale with only winners. We must be realistic. These are going to be increasingly tough negotiations in which the Commission's negotiators need all the input they can get to be ambitious in representing the EU´s common interest. Currently they risk taking public awareness and support for granted.
Marietje Schaake is a Member of the European Parliament and the spokesperson for the Liberal group (ALDE) on TTIP. She serves on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the Committee on International Trade and she focuses on the role technology plays.