Recommitting to Transatlantic Trade: A Conversation with the Congressional TTIP Caucus Co-Chairs
On Wednesday, January 21, 2015, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted an on-the-record event with three of the four Co-Chairs of the Congressional TTIP Caucus: Congressman Bill Keating (D-MA), Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA), and Congressman Todd Young (R-IN). The Caucus was launched in the spring of 2014 to demonstrate Congressional support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and to promote the transatlantic relationship. Bruce Stokes, Director of Global Economic Attitudes at the Pew Research Center and a non-resident fellow at GMF, moderated the discussion, which explored the current landscape and potential challenges for the agreement. The event had over eighty attendees, including representatives from the academic, think tank, corporate, and government sectors, with seven foreign ambassadors in attendance.
Dr. Karen Donfried, president of GMF, opened the event by noting President Obama’s mention, in the previous night’s State of the Union address, of the need for trade agreements from Europe to Asia that are both free and fair. Mr. Stokes remarked that TTIP is the most significant transatlantic initiative since NATO, as well as the single most important economic initiative since the Marshall Plan. The Congressmen agreed that, despite the seemingly low level of awareness on TTIP in the United States, their fellow representatives understand the value of the agreement and the numerous benefits of closer transatlantic cooperation. Congressman Young contended that in the current security environment, strengthening trade is another way to secure the way of life and values that are shared by Europeans and Americans. Congressman Keating similarly stressed the need for lawmakers to communicate that TTIP is different from all previous agreements due to historical ties and continued shared values in areas vital to trade, such as intellectual property.
Congressman Keating argued that it is critical to concentrate not only on the proposed features of the agreement, but also on the consequences of failing to reach an agreement. He noted that TTIP presents an opportunity to establish de-facto global norms of trade regulation, as well as cement our commitment to shared values on important issues such as climate, labor law, and intellectual property. The three Co-Chairs noted that as the negotiations are a reflection of our shared values, transparency throughout the negotiating process is critical, and they asserted that the U.S. will set a higher standard for transparency with this agreement.
Mr. Stokes guided the conversation to the inclusion of an energy chapter in TTIP, a prospect supported by the EU and deemed superfluous by the U.S. and Congressman Paulsen who noted that in other free trade agreements, energy is regarded as a commodity not requiring special treatment. As to why the developments in Ukraine have not emphasized the need for TTIP, Congressman Young highlighted the necessity of better communication on the geopolitical benefits of TTIP. Congressman Keating agreed, noting that the real strength of the shared values and security between the transatlantic partners rests on their economic strength.
A round of questions from the audience followed the remarks, with several Ambassadors taking an active role, resulting in a candid conversation with the Congressmen. The discussion concluded with the consensus that the geostrategic value of TTIP, beyond the economic benefits, must be better related to publics on both sides of the Atlantic in order to achieve a successful agreement.