What is TTIP?
The TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) is a wide ranging trade agreement that is currently being negotiated between the EU and the United States that could affect several sectors, from tech and manufacturing to agriculture. The agreement will remove trade barriers, making it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US.
How did it all come about?
In February 2013, an EU-commissioned ‘ad-hoc high-level expert group’ published a paper, highlighting the need for a free-trade area between the European Union and the United States. This was immediately taken up by major political leaders, with President Obama including it in his 2013 State of the Union address, and European Commission President Barroso announcing it the next day. The first round of negotiations of the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership officially kicked off in Washington in July 2013.
What impact will it have?
As with all international agreements, TTIP will shape the framework for current and future policy-making at the EU and Member State levels.
For business, the benefits are clear. Transatlantic trade between the world’s biggest economy and the world’s largest trading bloc will become easier and cheaper with barriers and tariffs removed. TTIP could further contribute to increasing the EU and the US’ roles as worldwide standards setters by finding ways to make regulations on products like cars more compatible.
Are there areas of concern?
Both the US and the EU are keen to protect some areas from TTIP, e.g. data protection and audiovisual services (TV, music and radio etc.), are excluded from the scope of the agreement. However, the agreement has still come under criticism from campaigners who have pointed out that the negotiations take place behind closed doors and that TTIP may undermine national laws in areas such as health, food safety and the environment. Investor-state dispute settlement has also been raised as an issue with some fearing that it tips the balance too far towards corporations.
What happens next?
The sixth round of negotiations will take place in Brussels this week with the next round planned for September in Washington. It is important however to stress that TTIP must ultimately be adopted by both the US Congress and the European Parliament, in order enter into force. Will this delay its deployment beyond 2016?