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Transatlantic trade under siege

 

The CETA agreement between the EU and Canada is almost ready to be ratified. This despite fierce attacks by opponents. Thanks to CETA European companies gain easier access not only to the Canadian market, but through the provisions in the NAFTA agreement (which covers all of North-America) to the US and Mexican markets as well.

 

But how about TTIP? This enormous masterpiece of a trade agreement between the United States as the world’s number one economy and the EU representing 28 European countries plus a number of economically associated countries like Switzerland and Norway. European politicians from Germany and France are doubting TTIP will ever be ratified. They blame the United States for not making enough concessions to European demands. I can imagine that the American negotiators can easily utter the same accusation. That is how the game has to be played obviously.

The European Commission (EU Government) still is determined to have TTIP ratified by 2017. I hope they are right, but a loud voice inside my head is telling me otherwise.

Free trade and the back scaling or completely abolishing of tariffs is not the disputed issue here. The provisions about government independent trade courts, consumer protection and food safety however are difficult and hotly debated issues.

Maybe TTIP has grown too large. Not only to many pages, but foremost to many issues to be covered.

A simpler version of a trade agreement could work for partners on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

So if you don’t want a detailed agreement covering almost everything, and you want it fast, what to do then?

Step one could be an agreement to abolish all import dues on existing trade between TTIP partners. That would give an enormous boost to Transatlantic trade without changing anything on laws and regulations concerning the question of which goods are allowed to be imported into a country. It’s just an administrative burden that gets lifted and companies save a lot of money.

A second step could be reviewing each other’s safety and environmental standards to determine which ones are equal, compatible or easy adjustable to reach the point that a free flow of these goods between TTIP partners is possible. Other products are excluded from the deal for the time being.

The most difficult item in the negotiations are the independent trade courts. Well, it is my humble opinion that if you have lost a negotiation item just accept it. No independent courts please. Let the existing courts in the respective TTIP partner’s countries judge any disagreements concerning transatlantic trade.

 

Maybe this step by step approach will bring us a comprehensive trade agreement much sooner than to wait for a TTIP agreement that covers everything but might not come at all.

 

Jo Spatgens

 

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