Why the West Should Not Be Redefined on the Basis of Economic Interests
Opposition in Europe to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is increasing. Fears about TTIP, whether rational or irrational, have been further fueled by the leak of the so-called TTIP papers on May 2. Critics, particularly in Germany, say the leaked papers from the negotiations have confirmed their worst fears about genetically modified food and a lowering of consumer protection standards in Europe. According to a poll carried out after the leak, 70 percent of Germans are now opposed to TTIP.
There is an increasing risk that it will be impossible to pass TTIP—or at least the ambitious, comprehensive version of TTIP that negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic continue to insist they want. In this context, it is a mistake for supporters of the project to give the impression that the whole future of the West hangs on it, which increases the costs of failure.
Apart from the danger of failure, there is also another reason why it is a mistake to invoke the concept of the West in order to make a "strategic" case for TTIP. A trade agreement between Europe and the United States is the wrong vehicle for the project of "revitalizing" the West in a post-Cold War context. Trying to sell TTIP by linking it to the future of the West is as likely to discredit the idea of the West as revitalize it.
The danger of making TTIP the vehicle for this project is that it redefines the West in terms of the economic interests of the EU and the United States. At a time when power is shifting from west to east, Europe and the United States will increasingly need to cooperate with other like-minded states, especially “global swing states” such as Brazil and India. In this context, the West must be about universal and therefore inclusive values, not the particular and therefore exclusive economic interests of Europe and the United States.
Those who try to make a “strategic” case for TTIP often say it is about values because it will allow the West to “set the rules for the twenty-first century.” It is not clear that other countries, for example in Asia, will really follow the rules set by Europe and the United States in TTIP (as opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership). But even if they do, it will only be in limited areas like phytosanitary standards. This is surely not so much revitalizing the West as trivializing it. The biggest threats to the West in the twenty-first century come from authoritarian and revisionist powers. It is difficult to see how TTIP will be of much help in responding to those threats (though TPP may be).
Supporters of TTIP should take a step back and think more carefully about the West, which is both a geographic and a normative concept. In order to reach out to rising powers that are not part of the west in a geographic sense, Americans and Europeans need to emphasize the normative version of the West and de-emphasize the geographic version of the west. But this is the exact opposite of what those who invoke the West in order to make the case for TTIP are doing. By identifying the West with geography and the economic interests of Europe and the United States, they are as likely to discredit it as reinvigorate it.
 This is an adapted summary of an article that originally ran in Foreign Policy http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/13/ttip-tpp-eu-trade-obama-asia/
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