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TTIP: Getting Past “No”

To make TTIP a success, negotiators should embrace public involvement.

February 27, 2014

Credit: ponsuwan -

After nearly two decades of attempts to start negotiating a transatlantic free trade agreement, the United States and the European Union are finally moving together on a major comprehensive agreement. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is the economic equal to the NATO Treaty that bound our security interests.

Previous attempts at a bilateral economic negotiation as ambitious as the TTIP have failed. The United States and EU urgently need an agreement to tackle the recession and fight unemployment with growth.

Basic principles are established: WTO-consistency, transparency, non-discrimination and essential regulatory equivalence.

Restoring American leadership

The TTIP is also a key component of the strategic reset of global relationships to promote American leadership. That is especially needed following the NSA affair that has eroded trust in American leadership.

In his 2014 State of the Union Address, President Obama said: “We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our environment, and open new markets to new goods stamped ‘Made in the USA’.”

However , not everyone favors the proposed agreement or the idea of speeding it up. A key player who is not persuaded is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He stated the day after the SOTU Speech that he was against “trade promotion authority,” the Congressional procedural tool also known as “fast-track,” at this time. Whether Congress adopts the fast-track system will be critical to determining the fate of TTIP.

Whether it is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) or other agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, all such complex arrangements confront a 21st century challenge: to explain and build public support for deals with powerful political consequences.

All into the same boat

Government negotiators will lead the talks, but they will need to bring the public, consumers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), labor, farmers and business into a transparent decision making process – something that has unfortunately not happened with the TPP talks.

Organizations representing these groups can energize and mobilize public opinion.

No matter how well organized and determined the business interests are, this agreement will only come into force when public concerns are addressed. At the core of the battle are serious and fundamental conflicts over food safety, emissions standards, the environment, data protection, labor impacts and weakening regulation (financial or otherwise).

These obstacles have to be overcome and legislative approvals have to be won in both the European Parliament and in the U.S. Congress.

But that is only where the battle begins. To succeed, we need a stakeholders’ outreach program to win public support for a comprehensive agreement that meets America’s needs.

EU Commissioner Karel De Gucht and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman have organized a public consultation process with briefings for involving the public.

In the United States a more robust TTIP Stakeholders Outreach Program could be shaped as follows:

1. Collaboration

Organize speakers, CEO/Citizens roundtables and public discussions with local and regional, innovative economic and business development organizations – public, private, business/public sector partnerships, NGOs, educational and research institutions – to facilitate understanding and agreement and collaboration with the goal of supporting the negotiations.

2. Discussion

Enlist U.S. and European chambers of Commerce, such as German, Dutch, Swedish and American businesses to discuss issues and make public presentations of the key issues in TTIP.

In addition to the traditional hearings and government presentations on policy issues, the TTIP Stakeholder Outreach program should link with The Council on Foreign Relations, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and their counterparts, such as the World Affairs Council in Pittsburgh and other cities in the United States to host speeches and panel discussions.

3. Analysis

Experts’ Issues Papers are essential to discuss the key advantages and disadvantages of TTIP in various sectors.

4. Regionalization

Tap the regionalization of the U.S. economy, one of the nation’s competitive strengths. Regions differ in their potential and opportunities to develop different growth sectors and jobs, but are likely partners for and sources of objections against TTIP.

Current strategic regional/local economic development programs are addressing high-value added sectors such as life sciences and biotechnology, Information Technology, Nano-technology, advanced manufacturing, environmental systems, and security, as well as the alternative energy sector.

Once identified, clusters of industries (particularly those industries which are affected by the TTIP (Autos, chemicals and agriculture) can develop TTIP support. Agricultural issues can also be addressed.

5. Investment

Advocate EU investment in the United States in regional projects that create local jobs and promote growth strategies in the current economic and credit market crisis with a scarcity of investment opportunities, offers private equity industry opportunities created by TTIP for their idle funds.

TTIP Stakeholder Outreach will recognize and aggressively promote the opportunities offered by globalization for the international expansion and growth of U.S. businesses of all sizes, and different industries. Innovative international trade and business development policies with the EU will foster jobs, particularly in small businesses.

The United States has the chance to advance our partnership with Europe based on common values of democracy, freedom as well as respect for human dignity and the rule of law. We have a common future. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a bold vision for our future and that of the 21st century, but will only succeed with public support.

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