Working Toward a Comprehensive Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement
On Wednesday, February 20, 2013, the Brussels office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and the U.S. Embassy to Belgium hosted a luncheon discussion on working toward a transatlantic trade agreement. The event featured remarks by Bruce Stokes, Director of Global Economic Attitudes at the Pew Research Center, and Non-Resident Transatlantic Fellow at GMF. Guillaume Xavier-Bender, Program Officer at GMF, moderated the discussion which focused on the opportunity, risks and implications of a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The event brought together a large and diverse crowd of policymakers, researchers, government officials and private sector representatives.
Set a week after President Obama’s announcement during the State of the Union and the Joint EU-US Statement to launch negotiations, the event offered the opportunity to discuss the state of play of transatlantic economic relations, as well as focused on the way ahead for the negotiations. While public opinion in the US seems to favor stronger economic ties with the EU, convincing policymakers and interest groups on both sides of the Atlantic remains a challenge. It remains to be seen if such an ambitious agreement can be finalized in the projected timeframe of two years on “one tank of gas” to avoid prolonged negotiations. Furthermore, perceived as much as an instrument of foreign policy as an economic partnership, finalizing a trade deal would go a long way to helping maintain Europe and the United States’ place on the world stage.
An active discussion followed on difficulties that negotiators may face in agreeing in specific sectors such as services and agriculture. Participants insisted on the fact that this is a give and take negotiation where the EU will expect some giving from the U.S. With growing understanding that the bulk of the agreement will focus on non-tariff barriers, compromise will be needed from both sides. The role of Congress and the European Parliament will be crucial in approving the partnership.