TTIP for Beginners
What is TTIP? A quick google search might inform you that the prospective Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is the most far-reaching free trade agreement that the United States and the European Union have ever seen. TTIP is meant to open market access for businesses across the Atlantic, enhance regulatory cooperation and set international standards. TTIP was introduced as being a progressive partnership, but many skeptics on both sides of the Atlantic see it as a race to the bottom.
Let us start from the beginning. TTIP was first proposed in 2013. So, for over two years the US and the EU have been going back and forth, trying to negotiate a free trade agreement. These negotiations have not been easy, as all of the countries in the EU have to agree on the deal, and the US Congress has to approve it, as well. Many people see TTIP as a capitalist corporate money-making scheme that will further benefit big business and further crowd out the little man. That said, neither side of the Atlantic seems fully convinced that TTIP is, in fact, a progressive agreement nor that it will benefit all parties involved (i.e. citizens, small and medium sized enterprises, and our respective standards on health, labor, agriculture, intellectual property rights, etc.).
You might already be drawn to one side of the pro-anti TTIP debate, and that is fully understandable. What is important, however, is to try to understand the facts of this proposed partnership and to then form your own opinion about whether or not you support TTIP.
Below, there are five different articles and/ or informative descriptions of TTIP from various American and European sources that will help paint a picture of what TTIP is meant to achieve and why people oppose it:
- The Case for TTIP
This Politico article provides a good summary of what is currently holding back an agreement from both sides of the Atlantic. It highlights the anti-TTIP apprehension as valid but also emphasizes the importance of making this deal work so as to increase the leverage and power of the transatlantic community on the world market. However, it should be noted that this article does not discuss how the deal would affect third-party countries nor the concern that such a deal between the wealthiest democracies would further strain economic stratification amongst countries not involved in the deal.
- Resisting TTIP: Dissecting the popular resentment toward the worlds most ambitious free trade agreement
The three main pillars of TTIP are detailed in this article presented by European Public Affairs. It describes the major concerns for each of those components but also explains why these core principles should be viewed as assets. What is refreshing in this piece is how the author traces the major concerns surrounding TTIP to cultural differences, instead of insinuating that TTIP skeptics are merely anti-corporatist liberals.
- Getting Legislatures on Both Sides of the Atlantic Engaged in TTIP
The German Marshall Fund of the United States has provided this policy brief that is technical but also informative in describing the bureaucratic hurdles that TTIP must overcome in order to be agreed upon/passed in the US Congress and the EU Parliament. It provides some clarity for what is ultimately impeding transparency with regards to this deal and what is going on in negotiations behind closed doors.
- U.S.-EU Free Trade Agreement (TTIP)
This informative page provided by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization (AFLCIO) is optimistic for a transatlantic free trade agreement, but also breaks down skeptics' concerns on a more humanistic level. While recognizing the potential for a great partnership, the AFLCIO is clearly also wary that TTIP will result in the same unrealized gains as former trade agreements have. Thus, they specify their requirements for supporting such an agreement so as to guarantee positive and progressive results.
- T-TIP Myths and T-TIP Realities
This publication from the United States Diplomatic Mission to Germany counters the heavily discussed myths with reality as seen by the US government. The realities described largely echo the messages that most pro-TTIP activists promote on both sides of the Atlantic. The details given on how TTIP can help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and how the agreement might affect developing countries and newly emerging economies are to be highlighted and applauded.
While there is a lot of controversy surrounding TTIP, it also seems most natural, in a way, for the US and the EU to have a comprehensive free trade agreement, considering the already significantly high level of transatlantic trade, and our cooperation on security, human rights, democracy promotion and other political issues. The fact that TTIP would eliminate transatlantic trade tariffs would undoubtedly reduce prices for numerous industries, products and services and open up the market for businesses that are not already involved in transatlantic trade.
TTIP is the most comprehensive free trade agreement the transatlantic community has seen, and in that word comprehensive, so much is included and so much is at stake. This is why there is significant wariness surrounding the agreement, and why negotiations are slow to progress.
Europeans and Americans should continue to voice their concerns and their support for TTIP; such a comprehensive agreement should ultimately represent all citizens involved in such a way that standards are not compromised and benefits are recognizable for all.
This article was written by Tess Snodgrass of the Editorial Team at the Atlantic Community. She is pursuing her MA in Political Science with the TransAtlantic Masters Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This article is part of our project TTIP Review supported financially by the US Embassy in Berlin. Click on the link to read more articles and our governance rules.
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