Transatlantic economic cooperation has been something on the minds of those on both sides of the Atlantic before the recent economic woes. For instance, the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) was formed in 2007 to deal with increasing regulatory cooperation, as well as aid in addressing non-tariff barriers to transatlantic trade. With the economic situations in both Europe and the United States, starting in 2008 with the housing market collapse, the two entities were more concerned about their individual recovery than cooperation between the two. Yet at the same time, the situation proved for many individuals that now is the time to pursue closer transatlantic trade and investment cooperation.
Data protection and surveillance was recently brought to light as a major issue between the U.S., and the E.U.. One which almost delayed the transatlantic trade talks due to, most notably, German and French objections after knowledge of possible U.S. surveillance tactics came to light. After some U.S. promises, the trade talks will continue as planned, but this is a glimpse of the extensive number of policy differences which will require discussion during this process. The intention and common belief is that the trade talks will go smoothly, creating a broad spectrum trade relationship between two of the world’s largest regional economies. Yet, with recent events one would think the talks are already off to a rocky start. Therefore, it is important to be aware of some of the issues or perspectives concerning E.U. / U.S. relations before they formally appear in the trade talks that are underway. While not all of these will specifically be discussed as part of the trade negotiations, as is seen with the recent occurrence about data protections, some of these issues may in fact be drawn into the talks surrounding the greater European Union relations with the United States.
After recent events, Data Protection is definitely an issue. Data protection issues have been recurrent between the two since the terror attacks of 9/11, though most recently brought to light again due to accusations of the U.S. tapping into various E.U. offices. In order to prevent this recent development from completely derailing the upcoming trade negotiations, the United States has offered to create ‘working groups’ on the subject.
A hot topic recently has been Cybersecurity. This is mainly due to the court cases surrounding U.S. based companies such as Google and Facebook. Yet despite the fact that there are, and probably will remain to be differences in the regulation of cybersecurity, both sides do appear willing to increase cooperation on this front in order to help counter cybercrime.
The European Union Trading System (ETS) is also a touchy subject, a system put in place to have airlines purchase carbon allowances in an effort to offset CO2 emissions by encouraging airlines to invest in more environmentally friendly aircraft. The E.U., under pressure from international relations has stopped, at least for the moment, the system’s international implementation. Part of this ‘international’ pressure was undoubtedly derived from a piece of legislation passed by U.S. Congress in 2012 that ‘prohibits’ U.S. aircraft operators from actively engaging in the European ETS. This matter has currently been taken up by the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization, which promised in November of 2012 that this would be an issue addressed within the coming year.
Periodically, officials from the U.S. will bring up European energy security as an issue, or at least something that, with deeper trade relations, is considered to be a U.S. interest. Part of this issue is the diversification of European energy resources, since currently it is fairly reliant on Russian supplies. Also of concern in the energy sector is the increase of sustainable energy and the consolidation of the EU’s internal energy market.
The fight against terror and the future of NATO are not likely to be discussed at the trade talks; however these two issues need to be considered when looking at the current level of general cooperation between Europe and the United States. Both have been led by joint U.S. / European forces and since September 11, 2001, there has most assuredly been a deeper level of communication and cooperation. This is linked in part to other issues such as cybersecurity and data protection, and was, at least in part, some of the reasoning behind recent developments in those two sectors.
The Euro-crisis greatly concerns the U.S., given how interconnected, even without the TTIP, the two economies are. Despite the U.S. administration encouraging European leaders to find a workable solution, the U.S. has been unable to play a part in planning for recovery. Many in the United States talk about the trade pact as a way that the U.S. can be allowed involvement in the European economic recovery process. While it still remains highly unlikely that the United States will be allowed involvement in things such as the establishment of a regulatory body for the monetary union present in the E.U., it may increase the power that the U.S. has on those decisions due to the high level of economic dependence between the two within the upcoming TTIP.
Two other areas of regulations that appear as touchy subjects on both sides, are that of Sanitary regulations and Phytosanitary regulations. In these two areas in particular, at this point, it seems as if both sides are reluctant to bend regarding the standards that are currently maintained. The regulations under dispute here concern issues such as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), hormone treated meats, and the qualifications for being organic, amongst other issues. It is unlikely that this will be a major rift in the negotiations themselves, but it is an area of anticipated concern.
One of the things integral to the economic policies in Europe as well as the United States is Agricultural subsidies. Both have sectors dependent on these economic incentives, which makes their viability better within the internal market, yet it remains to be seen, in order to increase or support forms of transatlantic agricultural trade, if the two very different systems can be integrated. The integration of these two systems, if attempted, could potentially be the biggest challenge of transatlantic trade talks.
Another point that could prove to be ‘tough’ at the negotiation table is that of licensing and qualification requirements. In order to increase the work flow across the Atlantic, these requirements need to be somewhat standardized. Since there are licensing or qualification requirements for nearly everything, the discussion of every detail will be time consuming. Of course, here it must then be pointed out that the current trade discussions are intended to be broad based. Yet even if one engages in a broad based discussion of this matter, it will, undeniably, still be complex.
All these issues aside, it is important for us to bear in mind that the United States and the E.U. already has one of the largest trade and investment relationships in the world. The pact is estimated to boost jobs and growth on both sides of the Atlantic by significant amounts. Every day the E.U. and U.S. trade of goods and services is ~2.7 billion dollars (U.S.). It is also estimated that transatlantic trade supports around 15 million jobs. The ongoing TTIP is estimated to increase these numbers, benefiting both sides. Not only is the European Union and the United States already close on economic issues, but they also have increased their international cooperation and coordination in addressing international security problems, such as counter-terrorism. Despite the challenges that these upcoming talks present, increased transatlantic cooperation concerning trade and investment could potentially be beneficial to all involved on both sides of the Atlantic. So with a little bit of patience, perseverance, and well-mannered negotiations, we all will soon be affected by an ever closer tie between the United States of America and the European Union.
Click here for a TTIP Fact Sheet done by the E.U. in the U.S.