Shifting Patterns of Trade: TTIP and the South Atlantic
On September 25, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and the OCP Policy Center, in cooperation with the EU-Africa Chamber of Commerce, hosted a panel discussion in Brussels on “Shifting Patterns of Trade: TTIP and the South Atlantic.” The event was opened by Ian Lesser, senior director, Foreign and Security Policy; Executive Director, Brussels Office at GMF, followed by Serguei Ouattara, president and executive manager, EU-Africa Chamber of Commerce who commented briefly on why Southern Atlantic states, Africa in particular, are raising questions about the outcome of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. The Global South perspectives were represented by Peter Draper, senior research fellow, Economic Diplomacy Program, South African Institute of International Affairs, and Len Ishmael, ambassador, Embassy of Eastern Caribbean States. The event, which gathered close to 60 participants representing EU institutions and member states, businesses, civil society and academia, was moderated by Guillaume Xavier-Bender, transatlantic fellow at GMF.
Listen to Guillaume Xavier-Bender's interview with Peter Draper on the impact of TTIP on the South Atlantic.
The event opened with Ouattara pointing out that TTIP will have repercussions far beyond the EU and the U.S. and emphasizing the growing concerns in Africa, specifically in the African private sector and SME’s. African countries raised the possibility of the erosion of preferential treatment in investment and trade, which would adversely affect their economies. With TTIP potentially setting global standards, a number of non-party states are feeling marginalized. Ouattara concluded by asking: what strategies should Africa and other regions adopt in order to be included - and should they be?
This contribution prompted a lively discussion that explored the many dimensions of TTIP. Draper addressed the issue through two lenses: low politics and geostrategic considerations. Viewed through the lens of low politics, the results of the trade negotiations between the U.S. and the EU should be discussed in greater depth, sector by sector, and product by product – the agreement on rules and regulations has the potential to raise standards and create economic growth between the transatlantic partners. However, this will affect other non-members and could lead to trade diversion, greater hurdles for their products, and an erosion of preferences. The implications of mega-regional trade deals in the World Trade Organization (WTO) was also raised, with TTIP as a possible means of circumventing the WTO and imposing rules with the organization on the one hand, or as a potential stimulant for change and progress on the other hand, especially in regard to the current standstill of the Doha Round. Ambassador Ishmael argued that TTIP is a source of concern for the future of multilateralism and that developing countries feel there is a need to reestablish ‘the rules of the game.’
In geostrategic terms, TTIP should not be seen in isolation but in conjunction with other mega-regional trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). In thiscontext, the negotiations can be seen as a political tool to isolate China and Russia and as a means to reassert transatlantic strength in light of a changing geopolitical balance. TTIP could entrench North-South divisions and push developing countries closer to a BRICS-led alternative. Concerns about TTIP could move trade relationships away from the traditional North-South toward strengthened South-South trade and could be the catalyst for closer southern integration.
The discussion on TTIP provoked debate on the timeline of the negotiations and what it means for existing trade agreements such as TTP and other bilateral agreements. It was agreed that the current rate of the agreement gives outside nations, such as the Atlantic South, time to internally and externally evaluate their options to react to TTIP, re-adjust export and import measures, improve regulation standards or to deepen methods of integration amongst themselves. The debate will need further examination both within the U.S. and the EU, but also farther south as many regions in the Atlantic are deeply integrated in the US or European economies.