The ongoing debate on the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) ushers in a new step in the globalization process, for Italy and Europe as a whole. Two players are engaged in the debate: on the one side the European Union on the mandate of member Countries, on the other the United States of America, namely, the most developed areas in the world. Together they represent almost 50% of global GDP, over 30% of global trade, a marked predominance on the stock markets, technological and productive excellence, with the only weak spot of a downsized population compared to the economic capacities of the two areas, owing to the low number of births when compared with Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Yet the TTIP is viewed with concern. Since 2013, when the negotiations were initiated, it was a crescendo of suspicions, accusations, opposite stands, veritable public “demonization”, as if we were facing the champion of international deception.
In fact, while at official level the treaty aims to integrate European and US markets, tearing down barriers and customs duties currently in force, thereby establishing the largest (and most powerful) area for the free circulation of goods and people between countries with free market economies, a large portion of the public opinion – especially in Europe – believes that the agreement entails negative, dangerous consequences. Few benefits, it is said, paid at a high price in terms of food safety and commercial security, consumer health, impacting the protection of local produce, along with workers’ rights.
Arguments in favour or against TTIP
Major criticisms involve:
Dreaded reduction in the productive standards of food, medicine, vaccines, agricultural production, rearing, coupled by the “threat” of US products containing GMO, antibiotics, fungicides.
The “liberalization” of the two translatlantic markets – argue the opponents – would strike a hard blow on consumers’ rights, which would be undermined by the current European legislation compared to the laws in force in the US, notably as regards the production lines of small and medium enterprises in Europe. Accordingly, the latter risk being annihilated by the power of (American) multinational corporations. Another risk consists in the creation of a large area for workers’ movements, as already happens in the European Union, entailing the abatement of the “rights” that in Europe are more substantial compared to the US. Conversely, those in favour of TTIP have made a long list of advantages (in addition to the afore-mentioned ones) such as: free access for European companies to American public procurement, namely the strong state infrastructure market; “explosion” in exports to the US from countries like Italy characterised by prestigious top-rate productions in areas such as fashion, jewellery, Doc and Dop food and agro-food products, pharmaceutical (with Germany we are among the first world producers), design, furniture and furnishings and so on. In short,
We would be missing a unique opportunity to boost growth, the weak spot of Europe as a whole, notably of Mediterranean Countries (Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece).
The supporters of the TTIP claim that, by extending our market to the US, production and trade would be increased to such an extent so as to compensate for the possible “costs” of low protection in the work market, compared to the US criteria, while production standards would remain those currently in force. Moreover, the TTIP would also be a powerful response to another agreement signed at the end of 2015, the TPP (transpacific partnership), which brought together countries such as the USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Chile, Japan, Philippines, Taiwan, and other smaller countries in Asia.
Overcoming global recession can only be achieved together. While the new Minister for economic development Carlo Calenda hastily underlined that according to the TTIP negotiating mandate our production standards will “remain unaltered”, and pointed out that “GMOs, public services, culture, rights and consumer protection are not the object of the negotiations”, concerns over the possibility that the agreement might strike a hard blow on European democracy are dispelled by the fact that after its ratification it will need to be approved by EU Council, European Parliament, and national parliaments. There ensues that citizens are fully represented – with power of veto – at all levels. But there is another set of objections. They were conveyed to SIR by Giampiero Bianchi , Professor of History of Economy and Labour at the Cattolica University in Rome. “It can be said that Italy would greatly benefit from the TTIP agreement. The more the markets are open and the more enterprises flourish, develop, and increase exports. Moreover, we know that today our small and medium enterprises sail through international markets, and are inserted into the interstices of large companies and multinationals. However there is a flaw: the political realm fails to help public opinion understand what’s at stake and therefore it is in turn victim of misunderstanding and closures.” According to Professor Bianchi “the role of politics throughout historical and economic initiatives such as the Marshall Plan, the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community), the rise of ECM (European Common Market) was decidedly different. In those historical phases – he said – there were great political operations, heated and constructive discussions. While
today there is need for a political realm that is able to explain, reassure, clarify that despite the differences between Europe and USA we will not let ourselves be trounced or deceived. Instead, we will govern the agreements object of the debate.”
Finally, Bianchi underlined another aspect: “In my view, the only possible limit of the TTIP is that there are some “exclusions”, far too many. In fact, on the one side it excludes China, and Russia on the other. It leaves out the Islamic world, which instead we should be addressing from an institutional as well as from a commercial angle. It equally excludes Africa and Latin America, while these large territories ought to be included, if we intend to overcome the serious tensions we witness on a daily basis: wars, terrorism, mass-migration, refugees, draughts. Global recession can be overcome only if all those affected by it manage to overcome it. Or at least, if once the TTIP is in force, something similar will be also conceived for the poorest countries and the excluded regions.” Upon serious consideration of Prof. Bianchi’s proposal it can be said, to conclude, that – unfortunately – such intentions are yet unheard, at least not in the formal declarations of the negotiating parties.