Daniel S. Hamilton

By Dr. Daniel S. Hamilton

Read the full text as it originally appeared on Tagesspiegel in German here.

Barack Obama and Angela Merkel want to conclude a TTIP deal during their current mandates. That will not happen. First, TTIP has come under considerable fire in key countries such as Germany and France, both of which will hold national elections in 2017. Second, negotiators are having a hard time reaching the finish line – especially when it comes to reducing transatlantic tariff barriers in agriculture or reconciling differences in regulatory policies. Third, Brexit is forcing the European Commission to recalibrate its approach to TTIP to reflect the loss of UK membership. It has also sparked a new debate about opening TTIP to third parties or negotiating a parallel US-UK trade agreement.

Equally important, the political dynamic in the United States has changed. The US presidential campaign has generated a toxic public debate about the value of trade, particularly its impact on jobs. For the first time in political memory both major presidential candidates have publicly opposed new trade agreements, particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Their stance on TTIP is unclear, but the congressional and public mood is not currently likely to support additional agreements. Moreover,  even if the Obama Administration did conclude a TTIP deal with the EU by mid-January, any new President — even if she is from the same political party — will want to review the package and is likely to want changes.

For all of these reasons, there is little prospect of any serious movement toward a final TTIP deal until the end of 2017.

But TTIP is not dead. In fact, it has become more important, not less. TTIP’s key rationale remains the urgent need for each side of the Atlantic to reposition its economy for a world of more diffuse power, swift technological changes, billions of new workers and consumers, and intensified global competition.

In this new global economy, Europeans and Americans are likely to become rule-takers rather than rule-makers unless they invest in new forms of transatlantic collaboration to strengthen multilateral rules and lift international standards. The window is closing on the ability of either the EU and the US to maintain high labor, consumer, health, safety and environmental standards and to advance key norms of the international rules-based order unless they act more effectively together.

Given the size and scope of the $5.5 trillion transatlantic economy, standards negotiated by the United States and the EU can quickly become a benchmark for global models, reducing the likelihood that others will impose more stringent, protectionist requirements for either products or services, or that lower standards could erode key protections for workers, consumers or the environment.

The key to imbuing the current TTIP negotiations with new life and new purpose — in a new year — is understanding that TTIP is not just another trade agreement, it is an opportunity for the transatlantic partners to prepare themselves for the new global economy.

Here is the path to TTIP 2.0 in 2018. Following the German and French elections in 2017, the new US President should announce that the United States accepts in principle European arguments that any transatlantic trade agreement must preserve and enhance, not erode, key protections for workers, consumers and the environment while opening markets for European and American companies. The goal would not be to negotiate an old-age trade agreement but to establish a new-age ”living” process by which individual regulatory authorities, not trade negotiators, would come to new arrangements, on their own terms and consistent with their own legal mandates to safeguard standards, re improved regulatory mechanisms, in light of global pressure to lower those standards.

A TTIP 2.0 package geared to advancing high standards across the Atlantic and around the world would go far to address the concerns of many TTIP critics. A high-standard transatlantic deal would also give the US President needed leverage to renegotiate those chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership related to labor, consumer, health and environmental protections, potentially lifting those standards throughout the Asia-Pacific region as well.

Obama wanted to finish TPP first and TTIP second. Reversing that sequence is not only better politics, it will achieve better results.

At its core, TTIP is about far more than trade. It is about creating a more strategic, dynamic and holistic U.S.-EU relationship that is more confident, more effective at engaging third countries while ensuring that standards remain high, and better able to strengthen the ground rules of the international order. TTIP 2.0 must stay true to this higher goal.


Daniel S. Hamilton is the Austrian Marshall Plan Professor and Director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.



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