free trade talks:
prosperity, the environment and consumer safety
By: Job Kantelberg
On the EU-US free trade talks: economic prosperity , the environment and consumer safety Door: Job Kantelberg, Student Public Administration European economic growth is slowly recovering after over five years of economic and financial crises. Political leaders of Europe – especially those from the wealthier EUcountries – agree that the European economy could use a positive incentive to foster and strengthen the cautious recovery it has been making the last years. When during the G8-summit in Northern Ireland this June the start of talks that should result in an EU-US free trade pact – the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) - was announced, politicians struggled to find superlatives to describe the prospect these talks offered. UK Prime Minister David Cameron called the talks “a once in a generation price, we are determined to seize”. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called a prospective treaty with the United States “of vital importance for the Netherlands and the EU in general”. The support of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands will not raise any eyebrows. Both countries are known as fierce supporters of free trade, and both countries are likely to benefit most from a free trade treaty because of the importance of trade for their economy. Leaders from Southern Europe are likely to be less enthusiastic about the prospect of a free trade treaty with the United States. The Southern European countries have suffered increasing trade deficits and decreasing export volumes over the years and the prospect of even further diminishing possibilities to protect the own instable economies will not be met with cheers in the South. Still, the agreement is hailed by the Commission, represented by commissioner De Gucht, as “a way out that will not cost a cent of tax payers’ money”. This last statement is heavily exaggerated to say the least. The most positive estimates predict an additional economic growth of 0.48% of EU GDP and the creation of over ten thousand jobs. The most recent figures show that at this moment, over 26 million people are without jobs. Presenting this as a way out seems completely unreasonable; it is very unlikely
that the increase in exports a treaty would cause could provide counterweight for falling internal demand caused by austerity measures in Southern Europe. Especially when we take into account that most likely the benefits will be reaped in the North, a free trade treaty is unlikely to provide comfort for the struggling economies of Southern European member states. Apart from some French politicians voicing concerns regarding the loss of sovereignty a treaty would entail, Southern European politicians have decided not to speak up against the treaty so far, probably fearing to come across as protectionists if they would do so. A free trade agreement as a threat for the environment and consumer safety As trade talks between the US and the EU progressed, the third round of talks started in Washington on the 19th of December, opponents started to voice concerns regarding the course of the talks. A free trade treaty makes one think of measures abolishing tariffs, as is in fact often the case in such treaties.