EU-United States Agreement: ” “advantages and doubts” “

Extended debate on Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

The European elections campaign has found an item for debate. Many non-governmental organizations, including Christian ones, are voicing their criticism on the transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the customary determination that reposes on knowledge of contents, but they risk losing sight of the overall picture. In fact, TTIP is a political initiative aimed at reducing trade barriers with the purpose of promoting growth and employment on the opposite shores of the Atlantic. Since 2012 the need for a global agreement between the European Union and the United States gradually took shape to eliminate or reduce the stumbling blocks to trade between the two shores of the Atlantic and further employment and growth. According to estimates by TTIP promoters, the agreement would result in a financial benefit of 199 billion euro for Europe’s GDP. In June 2013 the European Commission and the US administration were given a negotiating mandate respectively by the EU Council of Ministers and by the American Congress. A preliminary round of negotiations was held in Washington the following month, followed by other three meetings, the last of which was held in Brussels March 10-14. A high-level political meeting took place in February, while the second of three rounds of such technical meetings is tabled for the coming fall. Thus the agreement is not due to be finalized by the end of the year. The debate became increasingly intense since the opening of negotiations. The main pros and cons argued in the meetings can be summarised as follows. The economic argument: on the one side, criticism regards the figures provided by the European Commission on the estimated benefits in terms of employment and growth, considered to be based on an excessively optimistic scenario. However, this doesn’t make the request of doubling regulations to obtain such results – notably, the standards for car safety – less convincing. The strategic argument: during the negotiations for a TTIP bilateral agreement, some organizations expressed the fear that poorer Countries would loose preferential access to the European market. On the other hand, it is assumed that an agreement covering 40% of global GDP is the last opportunity for Western powers to block Chinese predominance in the definition of international standards. The environmental, health and social argument: it was contended that a mutual recognition clause would force the EU to accept less rigorous EU standards. But the European Commission made known that TTIP does not undermine the competence of EU Member States in terms of “fracking” authorizations (a tecnique for the extraction of oil and gas), GMOs or “bleached chicken”. The same could be said re the privatization of drinking water and health services. The sovereignty argument: criticism regarding the proposal of including an agreement for the protection of investors, along with a State/investor controversy resolution, was based on the risk that member States would thereby loose sovereignty to the benefit of multinationals. The European Commission, initially included in the negotiating mandate, suspended this negotiating chapter until the results of a public consultation launched on March 27 are available. France and Germany in particular expressed reservations on the above-mentioned TTIP chapter. The psychological argument: despite the EU-USA summit of March 26, Europeans have no guarantee that EU28 citizens have the same chances of USA citizens of filing appeals to the American courts in case of improper use of their personal data. Following the NSA scandal, European public opinion is diffident of the US administration and its services, although the present conflict with Russia highlighted the importance of close transatlantic relations. Notwithstanding the fact some of these claims deserve in-depth analysis – especially as relates to controversy resolution mechanisms – a large part of criticism against TTIP is motivated by an overall mistrust of politics. It is therefore necessary that heads of government and State explain and defend this project with more determination in order to convince citizens of its value. It’s not enough to hide behind the joint conclusions of the European Council. They should address their national public opinions directly.

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