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“TTIP and the Importance of Transatlantic Trade Relations”

October 3, 2014

by Elisabeth Winter

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Last week, the Transatlantic Business Council (TABC), the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and Eli Lilly and Company hosted an event to inform the general public but in particular Indiana SMEs about the free trade agreement currently under negotiation between the US and the EU, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

On this account, the event started with two very instructive keynote addresses by Dave Ricks, Senior Vice President of Eli Lilly and Company, and by US Congress Congressman Todd Young (R, IN-9), who also co-chairs the Congressional TTIP Caucus.

Next, Tim Bennett, the Director General of TABC gave an informative overview on TTIP, presenting its history, facts and figures about its possible economic impact as well as current challenges within the negotiations.

The following panel focused on the chances TTIP can provide for SMEs based in Indiana. It offered an analytic approach with a discussant from Washington D.C. based ACG Analytics, who provided insightful data on how the U.S. public perceives free trade and a possible free trade agreement with the EU, and an academic perspective on the innovative power of SMEs from Dr. Sameeksha Desai, Assistant Professor at the EU Center at Indiana University.

Kyle Cline from the Indiana Farm Bureau and representatives from two Indiana-based international companies completed the panel with insights from the business world. Finally, Kevin Brinegar, President and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce gave some concluding remarks.

A central conclusion of the panel was the necessity to approach the two-sided public perception of free trade in the US: The majority generally approves free trade, in particular with Europe. However, the majority is also uninformed about what is currently going on in Washington D.C. and Brussels, and indicated not being aware of the TTIP negotiations. Being from Germany, this is surprising. There, TTIP has been a big issue in the news for months (admittedly, this was stimulated by the recent elections for the EU parliament). Accordingly, many of the challenges for TTIP highlighted during the event are primarily raised by European opponents of TTIP. The most popular one is probably the issue of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). They are mostly prohibited in the EU and many Europeans fear the import of “Frankenstein-Food” from the US.

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As a political science scholar, who traces the development of transatlantic trade relations mainly from the European side of the pond, this event was a great chance to get to know the U.S.-American standpoint in-house. From my European perspective, some of the political aspects highlighted by the speakers were particularly remarkable.

There was a huge common sense among the speakers about the significance of close ties between the transatlantic partners: Not only the ACG analyst emphasized that – though both partners have other economic ties all over the world – the transatlantic partnership remains the “real core economic relationship.” For Dave Ricks, the transatlantic trust is especially significant due to cultural, political, and economic similarities that are much higher than with other countries. Accordingly, Congressman Todd Young indicates that TTIP offers opportunities that are nowhere else.

The speaker agreed that based on these already existing deep relations that characterize the biggest economic partnership on the planet, the TTIP could function as a template-setting arrangement for future agreements of both partners. As one advanced regulatory book, TTIP could secure transatlantic economic advantages in comparison to other countries.

This is of particular importance as with regard to the race between the TTIP and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Young reported. Even though the negotiations about the TPP have been on its way for years, the TTIP is set to connect two much more similar economies when it comes to labor standards or regulations. Hence, he suspects the TTIP negotiations may be closed before the TPP. The winner of this race will then set the road for the other and all future agreements.

The speakers agreed that this race becomes even more important as trade agreements are more and more considered to be critical for political issues as well. While Tim Bennett stressed the geopolitical and geostrategic implications of TTIP, Todd Young underlined more generally that in the 21stcentury, trade agreements are what security agreements had been for the 20thcentury.

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Considering the continuously growing number of trade agreements––not only between developed or developed and developing but also between emerging and/or developing countries––transatlantic trade relations enter the global political stage once again.

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