What can TTIP deliver for the citizens of the EU?

Speakers: Houben Hiddo, Hotchkiss Andrew, Altintzis Yorgos
Moderator: Carnell Poppy

On Tuesday 14 June 2016, PubAffairs Bruxelles hosted a debate on what TTIP can deliver for the citizens of the EU, with Mr Hiddo Houben, Deputy Chief Negotiator and Head of Unit, USA and Canada, European Commission (DG Trade), Mr Andrew Hotchkiss, President, Europe and Canada, Eli Lilly & Company, and Mr Yorgos Altintzis, Economic and Social Policy Officer, International Trade Unions Confederation. The event was moderated by Ms Poppy Bullock, Senior Correspondent at MLex.

Ms Poppy Bullock introduced the speakers and asked, as a first point of discussion, whether the agreement has some chance of being concluded and, eventually, succeeding.

Mr Houben stated that he felt that TTIP is an important endeavour as it addresses key questions concerning the role of the EU and the future of Europe within the current processes of globalisation. He further acknowledged that citizens of both the EU and US are entitled to know about the agreement’s implications. Mr Hotchkiss affirmed that it would be difficult to assess whether an agreement could be reached in the forecast timeframe given the complexity of the negotiations. Nonetheless, recent commitment by political leadership in EU and US is a positive sign. He expressed the hope that an ambitious and comprehensive agreement will be reached benefiting the EU and US economies and citizens. He concluded by stating that TTIP light is not an option. Mr Altintzis believed that the agreement would not be concluded by the end of the year  by referring to the time it took to agree on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Furthermore, he stated that US and EU civil society would voice their concerns about the proposed agreement, which would further stall future negotiating progress. However he also pointed out that a  ‘light version’ of TTIP might still be concluded.

A second point of discussion was whether a basic agreement could be reached before the Obama administration left office, and if negotiations could continue with the successive administration.

Mr Houben said that regulatory cooperation is an essential part of  the TTIP agreement and that it can lead to trade facilitation practices which can reduce costs for entrepreneurs and create advantages for citizens without reducing any levels of protection. He further provided a personal take on the TTIP by stating that the agreement primarily offers an insight into how the current dynamics of globalisation are affecting citizens and the political, economic and social challenges that naturally accompany it. He also remarked that all concerned parties are in the position to find solutions promoting the advantages of globalisation while ensuring that the whole spectrum of citizens is also put in the position to enjoy such advantages, if the growth rate is proportional to a fair welfare distribution. Additionally, he stated that trade policies have changed in the last twenty years by encouraging countries towards openness and by integrating basic norms of environmental, social and labour protection which should also deliver their results. He concluded by acknowledging that the debate on TTIP should further assess to which extent there might be a degree of recognition of the TTIP’s benefits by the whole set of stakeholders on both sides of the Atlantic. Mr Altintzis stated that the globalisation process has been a cause for the decrease in workers’ wages and was discouraged by the fact that OECD members are aiming to conclude trade agreements with each other, whilst not reaffirming the development mandate of the Doha Round in Nairobi WTO negotiations. He believed that this attitude was primarily aimed at ensuring an economic advantage over other emerging countries. He therefore stressed the need to restructure the current system, so that it benefits lower-income working classes especially, but not exclusively, in poorer countries. In addition, he acknowledged that global  productivity has surged in the last decades mainly due to technological advantages and the reshuffling of factors of production all over the world. This process might be considered in his view as a success in openness in trade, movement of capitals and direct foreign investments, if it was not accompanied by an increase in global unemployment and job precariousness, as well as by a poor wealth redistribution. Mr Hotchkiss stated that a soft version of TTIP would be a lost opportunity to agree on a more comprehensive agreement that includes common regulatory aspects. He believed that reaching only a basic agreement would not guarantee that a fully-fledged agreement would ever be reached as political stances notably influence trade policy. Mr Hotchkiss also pointed out better communication of the number of potential skilled jobs that the agreement could create in Europe as an incentive for the political leadership to push forward to a fully-fledged agreement.

A third point of discussion concerned whether citizens were aware of the potential benefits that the proposed TTIP agreement would bring about.

Mr Hotchkiss stated that there is indeed a communication problem in explaining the potential benefits for citizens. He cited the current Brexit debate, as an example where ordinary citizens were not being properly informed. He believed that companies and unions could play a bigger role in reaching out to people and explaining what the benefits could be. With special regard to the pharmaceutical sector, for example, he explained that an ambitious and comprehensive TTIP agreement would ensure faster and easier access to medicine. Mr Houben agreed with Mr Hotchkiss and provided further examples, such as the removal of duplicated inspections and authorisation procedures as well as an increased exchange of clinical data as potential benefits for citizens. These features would reduce the cost and time of bringing new medicine on the market. He further clarified that TTIP aims at reducing costs and burdens in order to make the EU as competitive as possible, while continuing to sustain the model of society which is part of the European treaties and values. Mr Altintzis believed that the WTO could already provide the benefits that the TTIP agreement supposedly would bring about. More specifically, on labour rights, Mr Altintzis was of the opinion that regional or bilateral free trade agreements could further increase labour competition and therefore will decrease the wages and rights of low and medium skilled jobs, but create decent work for few highly skilled workers. As a result, he suggested that EU trading partners should be requested to implement all International Labour Organisation standards.

The final part of the debate, a Q&A session, also covered the following issues: the transparency and secrecy of the negotiations, the benefit for SMEs, how Brexit will affect the negotiations, CETA, unionisation, China market status as a roadblock to TTIP, and social and environmental standards.

Do you want to go further into the issues discussed in our debate? Check our list of selected sources which we have provided for you

Transatlantic Trade and Investments partnership  (TTIP) – European Commission

Malmström in Washington: “We need highly ambitious trade agreements”, Trade
Commissioner Cecilia Malmström  – European Commission

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) – Office of the United states Trade representative

EU-US negotiations on TTIP: State of Play, EP Think thank

Transatlantic dialogue – ETUC, European Trade Unions Confederation

Trans-Pacific Partnership agreements – ITUC, International Trade Unions Confederation

TTIP case study report ‘Four Sectors, Many Stories, One Ambition – Leading UK industries make the case for TTIP’, BAB – British American Business  

EFPIA and TTIP, European Pharmaceutical Industry Association

How a Strong Pharmaceutical Chapter in TTIP will Benefit the EU, Copenhagen Economics 

TTIP and Healthcare, LillyPad – Eli Lilly & Company Blog

LillyPad – Eli Lilly & Company Blog

Eli Lilly & Company Brochure