Press coverage of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has focused on pockets of strong European grassroots opposition. This became particularly visible as negotiators from both sides of the Atlantic met for the 13th round of negotiations.
There is, in fact, a stronger basis for support across Europe than most critics acknowledge. According to a poll conducted by the European Commission released this past December, 53 percent of Europeans support a free trade and investment agreement between the EU and the United States in principle. Only 32 percent were against.
The majority of Europeans already appreciate TTIP’s potential benefits in terms of economic growth, increasing market opportunities, and job creation. And returning the focus of public debate to those benefits could help increase support significantly. We saw this happen in the United States during debate on the trade promotion authority (TPA), which provides the legal framework for the president to conclude trade agreements.
An analysis of the larger stakes will help define the conversation on TTIP. Three, in particular, are pertinent to a European audience.
First, both the U.S. and the EU need to make the most of their commercial partnership. This is particularly urgent given forecasts of slower labor force and economic growth relative to the Asia-Pacific and other regions.
According to the London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research, TTIP has the potential to increase EU exports to the U.S. by 28 percent. This includes a 40 percent increase in motor vehicle exports, as well as metal products, processed foods, and other goods. At the same time, EU annual GDP stands to increase by €120 billion, with disposable income for a family of four increasing by €545 per year.
The benefits that European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) would experience under TTIP are unequivocal. Currently, EU SMEs contend with U.S. tariffs as well as EU tariffs on U.S. inputs. TTIP will reduce and eliminate tariffs as well as reduce costs associated with unnecessary regulatory barriers to trade, meaning SMEs would be able to more efficiently reach a greater number of customers across the Atlantic.
Second, TTIP will represent the continuation of the preeminent — and demonstrably successful — global economic model. From Bretton Woods to the World Trade Organization, the U.S. and Europe have cultivated and advanced the rules-based system of international trade — a system that has laid the foundation for the policies and institutions that protect our workers, our intellectual property, and our environment.
TTIP will build on this system through fully enforceable labor and environmental protections, as well as protections to ensure the free-flow of data while preserving each side’s distinctive approach to the protection of privacy. The agreement will keep the U.S. and EU at the helm of the global trading system and ensure the high standards that reflect our common values. TTIP will be an example toward which others can aspire.
Finally, TTIP will strengthen the transatlantic digital economy, and bolster our capacity to compete and innovate. For decades, the U.S.-EU relationship was defined by the global stability and innovation it helped foster. In the 21st century, it will be defined by our ability to constructively and cooperatively tackle a new generation of policy and business challenges.
We will have to work on common approaches on the digitization of manufacturing, and TTIP offers a compelling answer to the challenge ahead. It will demonstrate our shared commitment to driving greater data-driven innovation both within and between our economies. The agreement will serve as a critical building block for transatlantic growth and global economic leadership, both in the digital economy and as we look to confront complex global challenges.
We must refocus the conversation on these crucial big-picture benefits. Critics will be hard pressed to present their case for how a world without TTIP will ensure greater economic growth, enhance the rules-based system of global commerce, and grow the influence of the transatlantic alliance. Once these larger stakes are brought back to the center of the debate, support for TTIP will only grow.
Stefan M. Selig is U.S. under secretary of commerce for international trade.