Bertelsmann Stiftung @ European Business Summit 2014: Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TTIP) needs balanced approach

bertelsmann_stiftung logo

Written by Aart de Geus, Chairman & CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung

aart_de_geus

Chairman & CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung

The successful completion of world trade talks on Bali last December is already considered historic. One hundred fifty-nine countries agreed to simplify world trade by having fewer customs regulations and more uniform trade rules. Does that make a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement, like the one the European countries and the USA are currently negotiating, superfluous? Hardly. Because a new agreement between the EU and USA could clear the way for the next major step: a thorough-going liberalization of world trade. More than just overcoming traditional trade barriers, it can become the nucleus of an agreement on global standards for food safety, environmental protection, data protection and workers’ rights.

That kind of free trade agreement would go far beyond what has so far been governed by multilateral trade agreements. There is plenty of evidence that more intensive trade cooperation between the EU and USA would promote growth and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic. Even if it may be difficult to quantify its effects exactly, it is clear that there are benefits for all, even the crisis-shaken southern European countries. Calculations by the Bertelsmann Stiftung show that a trade agreement is not a zero-sum game in which some EU countries win what others lose. Even if closer economic cooperation with the USA would not solve all the problems of the crisis-bound EU economies, an opportunity for growth not based on more debt is too important to neglect.

Just considering the economic outlook would however needlessly diminish the impact of a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement. The goal of the negotiations should remain the elimination of unnecessary trade barriers, but existing Europe-wide environmental and social standards must still remain secure. Besides this substantive condition, a process-based condition must be met if the EU and USA expect to gain wide popular acceptance for a broad-based Free Trade Agreement. Better information must be given to the public about the content and progress of the negotiations. So far, in early phases of the negotiation, a lack of knowledge and transparency has led to serious popular mistrust and rejection. The debate is already marked by combative terms, and harm seems to have been done to the relationship of trust between the EU Commission and European consumer protection, environment and cultural lobbies as well as unions.

That may also be due to the fact that in negotiating such a thorough-going agreement, Europe and the USA are entering unknown territory, institutionally as well as procedurally. Something of this magnitude has simply never been done before. Whereas earlier bilateral trade agreements were essentially about tariff barriers and customs duties, the focus is now on regulations that cover the most varied areas, including health, medicine, environment, culture and food, all areas that affect people directly and emotionally. What lacking public support can mean was experienced by the EU just recently, with the failure of the Transatlantic Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Backroom politics without constructive public debate simply does not work anymore.

The negotiating partners quickly need to find a new balance between the justified confidentiality of sensitive information and the equally justified public interest. Otherwise, not only will the trade agreement fail but skepticism about the European project as a whole will increase. Europeans today look critically at the EU institutions, even the successful single market project. As a result, besides the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament – the real drivers of the initiative and the legislative decision-makers – are being questioned. The politicians, who have done little up to know to make a strong case for a Transatlantic Trade Partnership to their citizens, need to involve them and better explain to them what such an agreement really means. The on-going public consultation by the Commission on investor protection and investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) can be seen as a step in the right direction.

The Commission wants to have completed negotiations by 2015. That is an ambitious target, because the areas to be negotiated are numerous and complex. The EU and USA will not get there any more quickly by keeping the public in the dark. Instead, they should generate a public debate on values. The effort is worth it because a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement that triggers growth and at the same time stabilizes social and environmental achievements can easily be a model for further progress in global free trade. There is still a lot to do, even after Bali.

About the Author

Aart de Geus has been Chairman and CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung since 2012. Prior to this, he was Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD and Minister of Social Affairs and Employment in the Netherlands.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Russia and the West to partition Ukraine?

Challenges remain in DPRK despite ‘slight’ improvements in health, wellbeing: UNICEF

Forget GDP – for the 21st century we need a modern growth measure

11 lessons the history of business can teach us about its future

INTERVIEW: UN’s top official in North Korea foresees ‘surge’ in humanitarian aid

Car clocking: MEPs call for new legislation to combat odometer fraud

Migrant caravan: UN agency helping ‘exhausted’ people home

ECB ready to counter the rise of the euro?

Debunked: 5 myths about the future of work

Yemen: Committee brings warring parties to the table in Hudaydah, builds on ceasefire

Parliamentary bid to democratize Myanmar constitution a ‘positive development’ says UN rights expert

Greece did it again

Libya: UN mobilized to support thousands uprooted by Tripoli clashes, renews call for humanitarian truce

The British are the most positive in Europe on the benefits of immigration

Using ‘leprosy’ metaphors in political rhetoric ‘fuels public stigma’ and discrimination: UN rights expert

How a trade war would impact global growth

Where do Americans stand on immigration? They’re not as divided as you might think

The Chinese spirit

Security Council unanimously agrees to extend UN Cyprus Mission amid political impasse

Fears for food security and the future of farming families, as Fall Armyworm spreads to Asia

Mechanism to protect democracy in the EU needed more than ever, says the EP

Tsipras bewildered with Berlin’s humiliating demands; ECB expects political sign to refinance the Greek banks

Press coverage of migration crisis in Europe: a call for collaborative action

COP24: World sports join team UN in race against climate change

Across the world, women outlive men. This is why

Yemen war: The battle rages on, children suffer most

Why precision medicine is the future of healthcare

The challenges of mental health: an inconvenient reality

Four ways innovation can help to beat heart disease

Elections in Europe: No risks for the EU, leaders readying to face Trump-Brexit

The Netherlands is paying people to cycle to work

Brussels waits for the Germans to arrive

THE COMMITTEES: ‘All roads lead to the Fifth’

Main results of Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) – 18-19/10/2018

Bangladesh, South Africa and Bolivia all beat the US for women’s representation in politics

Young people are Europe’s biggest value and hope

UN chief condemns attack targeting international forces in northern Mali

European Union disenchanted with Turkey

EU elections: Can EU citizens’ awareness eradicate fake news more efficiently than Facebook, Twitter and Google?

How three US cities are using data to end homelessness

EU countries invested €5 trillion abroad

COP21 Breaking News_05 December: Children Will Bear the Brunt of Climate Change: UNICEF

WHO reports ‘very strong progress’ in battling DR Congo Ebola outbreak

Foreign Affairs Council (Trade) of 22/05/2018: EU relations with key trading partners

“A sustainable economy, low-carbon, resource-efficient, resilient and more competitive on the global stage”, EU Commissioner Vella in a Sting Exclusive

Euro celebrates its 20th birthday

Greece and Ukraine main items on EU28 menu; the course is set

The IMF sees Brexit’s ‘substantial impact’ while the world’s economy holds its breath

Use space technology to build a better world for all, urges UN chief

Chinese “BeiDou” GPS goes to market

UN chief ‘deeply saddened’ by Ethiopia plane crash which killed 157, including at least 21 UN workers

Human rights breaches in Iran, Egypt and Tanzania

Parmesan cheese on shelves in Italy (Copyright: European Union, 2014 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: Daniela Giusti)

CETA at risk again: Italy says it won’t ratify EU-Canada trade deal over product protection fears

1 million citizens try to create a new EU institution

It’s time to strengthen global digital cooperation

UN Forum examines three pillars of 2030 Global Goals

We could be sleepwalking into a new crisis. How should the business world prepare?

COP21 Breaking News: “There is an ecological debt that the world needs to pay back to Africa”, French President Francois Hollande promises 2 Billion euros by 2020 from Paris

‘Historic’ moment: Palestine takes reins of UN coalition of developing countries

We must work together to build a new world order. This is how we can do it

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s