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Self Interest Must Not Be Allowed to Derail Trade Negotiations

Negotiators met in Washington this week to advance talks on the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Concluding an ambitious and comprehensive agreement will yield significant economic benefits. It will signal that both sides are open for business and form the basis for the world’s largest internal market, liberalizing a third of global trade and boosting employment.

Unsurprisingly, the voices of opponents and promoters of TTIP are becoming louder and more polarized.  In any negotiations there are conflicting interests but the focus must be on the common good. Self-interest, from whatever quarter, must not be allowed to derail it.

Opponents claim a deal will damage consumer, labor and environmental protection. They also argue it will jeopardize the sovereignty of countries and their legal systems by giving rights to multinationals to sue governments adopting laws to protect public interest. These claims are misleading.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman speaks during a panel discussion in Washington. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

An agreement will reduce or eliminate trade barriers for companies and may require regulators on both sides to adopt common product standards and regulations.

However, these changes will not impact the current levels of protection.  Rather, they will align product regulation and standards to make them compatible with each other reducing unnecessary costs.

The reality is that there is ample protection for citizens.  The European Commission is going out of its way to stress that any deal will uphold the highest standards. Such changes would  also require approval of the national and European Parliaments. It is hard to conceive they would support an agreement that would materially harm workers, consumers etc. Given that increased trade offers a potential solution to the problems of low economic growth and rising unemployment, TTIP must be given a genuine chance.  This does not mean dropping vigilance but it does mean allowing debates to take place based on fact.

Companies on both sides of the Atlantic will be the first to benefit from TTIP. But in a competitive global marketplace, these benefits will quickly pass to consumers.

TTIP will increase the prosperity of the vast majority and as representatives of those who invest in the EU we call on all sides to give it a chance of success.

Hendrik Bourgeois is president of AmCham EU and GE vice president of European Affairs. Emma Marcegaglia is president of BUSINESSEUROPE. This piece first appeared in the Financial Times.

Self Interest Must Not Be Allowed to Derail Trade Negotiations was originally published on Ideas Lab

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