The attention catalysed by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (hereinafter TTIP) on the issues related to the economic and financial sphere should not be taken for mistaken by readers. It is not all about trade and investments, not exclusively at least.
Due to its comprehensive nature, the agreement involves a humongous number of issues and aspects of everyday life. From this optic, the concern rising from the public opinion and associations’ protests is a foreseeable exercise.
On the other hand, both the EU and US negotiators have good grounds to carry on with the TTIP negotiations, which have reached its 7th round of talks. But then again, nothing substantial is on the plate. From a European perspective, the partnership would not only have a positive impact on the stagnant continental economy, whose recovery is at the end of the tunnel. But we are uncertain on the remaining distance to be trotted to go out of it.
The TTIP would reinforce its Transatlantic special partnership after having been under the gun in the last years as a result of EU both US willingness to broaden their network of allies and partners, at the most various stances. The shift and swing of power occurred in the last decade on the international scenario has seriously harmed the relations between the two Atlantic shores.
In early 2012, the US strategy known as “Pivot to Asia” became clear with the participating countries to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) set the goal of wrapping up negotiations. This strategy captured the attention of EU governmental officials and media commentators as it dread a sort of disengagement of the US broadly from the Europe, particularly for its security related open contentious in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA).
This choice responded to a strategic new vision following the “mission accomplished” to XX century dream to pacify and draw together the European Countries. Albeit outside EU’s borders the situation has been quite bustling lately, requiring a renewed US attention.
Meanwhile, the Asia-Pacific region has continued its ramping growth also during the grieving period of the global financial crisis, becoming the most dynamic business environment in the world according to experts, and the perspective economic powerhouse of the XXI century (1).
The EU has partially recovered from this sort of loneliness complex thanks to the US engagement in the field of security and defence, the EU has also pursued its willingness to extend the network alliances and partnerships so to undertake the principle leading EU’s external actions.
Indeed, The “Hague Programme” pinpoints that:
“The European Council considers the development of a coherent external dimension of the Union policy of freedom, security and justice as a growing priority.
[…] All powers available to the Union, including external relations, should be used in an integrated and consistent way to establish the area of freedom, security and justice.” (2)
The strategy for the External Dimension Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (hereinafter ExtDAFSJ) has been sketched by the Commission around guiding principles, prioritizing the geographic pattern as the relations with partners. Standing a series of measures tailored on the neighbour countries and the candidate ones, the communication of the Commission in 2009 targeted specific countries and policy domains to be adopted as basis which the partnerships should have blossomed on. The document underlined the need to engage in the field of FSJ neighbour countries as well as the two vital partners for the external dimension of the EU’s action, the US and the Russian Federation. Standing the latest development of the world politics, EU’s relations with Russia should be considered on the halt since the breach to international peace and security is kept on by Moscow, as grounded by the words of the future High Representative, Federica Mogherini. With regards to the other named actor, the US, the debate on the Transatlantic relationship has heated up in the last years, nonetheless the US still today embodies for the EU an essential partner to realize its external dimension agenda, and insofar for the FSJ domain.
As mentioned beforehand, in the last decade, the EU-US relations have been suffered from the diversification of both allies portfolio of interests and partners, along with the discrepancy of vision regarding strategies and visions in the field of security and defence from the new transnational threats to peace and stability. Being a product of the new international system in transition from a bipolar division to a multilateral vibrant scenario, the contemporary international arena has seen the EU seeking after a diversification of its partners. As the US did the same, but keeping in mind the links tying the two powers together.
At the same time, the fast rising powers captained by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have strengthened the two Western giants to counter-balance the economic power of the Dragon and the Asian tigers.
Experts deem the upcoming structure blossoming from the US policies towards EU -with the TTIP- and the Pacific -towards the TPP- as a pincer strategy to counter Chinese growth.
The message is “liberalise or choke” in this metaphorical pincer, and actually the TTIP seems to be a good envelop to deliver this missive to Chinese officials. Thanks to EU’s commitment to set new standards and achieve a pure multilateralism, also through bilateral accords, this mission may be victorious, but there are some shadows outshining the multilateral and liberalisation aim.
This “multilateralism through bilateralism” mission has been nailed when the sign of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) gave new life to the immobility reached by the negotiations of the Uruguay Round. One of the main claims, and doubts the same, is whether the TTIP may revitalize the Doha Round from the stalemate it has been going through. In this direction, the EU best practices benchmarked the negotiations leading to the Agadir agreement, signed in 2006, aimed to facilitate integration within the North African region whose States, albeit the cultural homogeneity had very poor exchanges in economic both political terms.
The idea of spreading the EU standards must not be upfront, it carries no teaching or moral aim with it. EU’s standards are considered to be more elaborated as they are the product of long negotiations. Multipolar international system following to the end of the Pax Americana, steadily reduced US leading role, especially after the upheavals brought up by the 11/9, Iraqi War and 2008 economic global crisis. Now the status of play is shared by several actors, desperately seeking after a rebalance or at least, reshuffling the instable and chaotic multilateral system, orphan of hegemony and global governance structures. The EU has strived to build up a security multilateral system, based on the rule of law and the role of cooperation and third parties engagement against common perceived threats. But it does not automatically exclude other parties’ style of game.
May the TTIP be considered en economic NATO? Not really
Trade is one of the main vector stimulating States’ foreign policies, as Alexis de Tocqueville had to say, and broadly speaking for the EU it is a main leverage to “coerce” States to behave, as it happened with the enlargement process or with the sanctions’ package against Russia, in the latest.
Coming to the TTIP, the EU is trying to set new standards and extend the best practices abroad, through its external actions’ tool. These latter, as the whole ExtDAFSJ building suffer from a severe case of double standards in its relations to third countries. Mostly, these have to face conditionality and demanding negotiations round before attaining to the partnership or sign the agreement.
Conversely, the EU shows a smooth approach when dealing with the US, partially explained with the formulation
“The strategic nature of [EU] security partnership with the US is based on a well-established dialogue, built on common values, trust and long-lasting entente.”
Looking at the TTIP externally, as a monolithic block, it may be considered as an economic trade agreement trying to set up another brick in the European system of FTA with third parties.
The network clinching together in preferential trade agreement system (PTA) the EU and third parties is quite vast and deemed to expand in the next few years, with the ongoing negotiations with the ASEAN or trying to restore the negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council area.
The impressive bulk of trade and investment makes the differences here, without any comparison possible with the others FTA signed by the EU, as it would create a free trade regime governing exchanges from the Black Sea to the Hawaii.
Nonetheless, starting scrubbing the surface and going in deep with details, an analytic approach more detail gives back a different image of the agreement (2).
The TTIP has been described as “an economic NATO”, being an asymmetric agreement between the only super- power still standing after the Cold War and the brand-new governance experiment, the EU. This unbalanced relation may affect the already loose stones to build up a solid European identity, and conversely to boost up the perceived hurdles hindering the EU’s path from being a hybrid construction with federal and intergovernmental elements towards the establishment of a proper supranational institution.
Albeit having a huge economic impact in terms of figures, the TTIP is not the trade and investment translation of the NATO accord due to historical stances and the EU economic clout. Indeed, the US are security and defence sub-provider standing EU’s lack of internal cohesion on the security related issues and defence common market. In opposition, the European economic features figure out a wholly different ball-game.
The impact on the EU economy would be significant, but not actually in terms of growth nor of better standards. Dealing with the US, the EU may be forced to play a “tit for tat” match such as on the quality of imported goods from the US. For example, EU’s limitation of imports of genetically modified foods, presents a major problem for US agriculture. And this is only one of the controversial issues from a whole bunch of pro and cons the agreement.
The existing tariff ruling the Transatlantic trading exchanges are basically trivial, what is under the lens is the alleged non-tariff barrier reduction. This would facilitate the entrance on the European market of goods and services that, as of October 2014, are considered to be “toxic” within the EU.
Further, the esteems of growth have not impressed the economists, reflecting a timid growth on the long period of barely 0.5% for the European economy(1). In fact, those who deem that a commercial policy with the US would be the medicine to treat the sickness which is suffering the EU’s economy from 2008 onwards, should consider to hear another doctor before taking the “TTIP-Medication”. The lack of a proper macroeconomic policy together with the national debts and low rate of consumption, private both public, is hindering the EU to resume high growth rates especially in the Eurozone. Any commercial agreement can substitute a sound political intervention to restore the employment market at pre-2008 levels or replace the lack of structural policies.
To be mentioned, the EU public opinion, as well as national officials, has expressed concern widely and publicly towards the possible negative spill outs carried with the progressive liberalisation of services, with serious outcome on the sphere of public services – health, education, water supply above all. What is at stake here is the European welfare state condition.
Moreover, the debate has been heated up by the so-called “positive list system” of negotiations, that may well shape some aspects while withholding on some others more sensitive. Besides, the lack of transparency in the first 7th rounds of negotiations, as well the investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) instrument both are under the spotlight (3). Openly, every EU Member State has expressed perplexity over one or more point of the TTIP, accordingly to national prerogatives. For instance, Westminster has expressed its concern with regards possible effects of the TTIP on the NHS, while the Scandinavian Countries are worried for the future of their public health services and public transports, which they funnel into around the 50% of the State budget. Far from being protectionists, Italy and France have alarmed of the possible negative effects of the OGM products for consumers’ health (4).
Simultaneously, the European Parliament LIBE commission has expressed concern for the data protection system, in the wake of the NSA- John Snowden affair scandal.
Data protection: allies do not spy each other, they do talk
After the 11/9 the world has experienced a sheer increase in the data requests field with the purpose to monitor suspects, prevent and counter terrorists’ threats.
The different legislations ruling over the field of information exchanges, as well as intrusive US security agencies data-mining procedures have required further reflections and to put on halt the negotiations. Being this forewords for the work of EU and US negotiators’ work, the number of scandals that in the last years have seen the NSA as principal actor for sure have not lead the TTIP talks close to an happy ending. The PNR Agreement and SWIFT case are of course products of the post-9/11 and war on terror dialectic, but they recalled the importance of the clarity and transparency in the international agreement, particularly for the Transatlantic relations.
The abovementioned treaties and practices have a deep impact on the fundamental human rights and freedoms matter in the ExtDAFSJ agenda aimed to establish a transparent legal order internationally. The creation of a European PNR system would better effect the joint actions of Europol and the US for the authorized data exchange practice, legal assistance and extradition. As well, A possible conclusion of a binding agreement establishing a shared transatlantic agenda on data protection would be a desirable step ahead (5).
The visible friction lays on the different set of values leading the contracting counterparts in their foreign affairs and external actions. While the US manages the post 9/11 justifying the reduction of freedoms with the need of security, the EU recognizes that in absence of freedom and justice there cannot be security, only guaranteed through the respect of the rule of law. Besides the messianic civil mission, the EU pinpoints a number of principles and best practices at the base of its external actions. Whereas substantive violations of human rights are proved to occur, the EU is forced by its institutive Treaties to interrupt the negotiations as their continuation would spoilt EU’s vocational engagement on the respect of human rights within its own borders as well.
An illuminating example of which human rights violation may occur with the unregulated data passing within the parts is the case of information received throughout the use of inhuman practices, blackmailing and extortions through ill treatment. The Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib affairs together with the NSA spying scandal have triggered resentments from the EP and also, from the most pro-TTIP country in Europe, Germany. Asking the US to provide the EU allies with clarifications besides the American engagement to stop humiliating practices within anti-terrorism actions, the EU has showed its political will independence and the respect of the principles included in the TUE and TFUE regulating the ExtDAFSJ.
A good signal for the improvement of the transparency regime arrived from the declassification of the TTIP negotiation mandate as strongly asked by the European public opinion, MPEs and the formal request of the Ombudsman to the Council of the EU (6). Better late than never.
Pour en savoir plus:
– www.pjgoldsmith.com/2014/10/04/ttip-the-devil-is-most-definitely-in-the-detail/ – -www.epc.eu/documents/uploads/pub_4637_isds_&_ttip__a_miracle_cure_for_a_systemic_challenge.pdf;
- – bruegel.org/nc/blog/detail/article/1381-blogs-review-the-eu-usa-transatlantic-trade-and-investment-partnership/ iied.org/europes-controversial-ttip-treaty-good-bad-unnecessary