Historic trade talks get underway in Washington Euronews 07/08/2013:
Sara Miller Llana in Will US-EU trade talks spur growth - or show globalization's limits? 07/08/2013 frames the TTIP negotiations in a useful way:
With tariffs already low, this deal will focus more on business barriers such as safety standards or inspection procedures. The issues might seem pedestrian, but are some of the trickiest to negotiate, going to the very heart of the way people live their lives: the way chicken is cleaned, or the assumptions people make when they walk into a pharmacy or get into a car.Miller Llana's report suggests that a failure of the TTIP to come to fruition would be a major setback for the neoliberal trade project, a prospect that some of us find less unpleasant than the business lobbies do:
Yet even if it fails – and there are plenty who think that the obstacles such as agriculture and, most recently, data privacy are insurmountable – a failure would be pivotal, showing that tariffs can be dropped but non-tariff barriers, which are often more cultural in nature, remain stubborn. A failure, says Fredrik Erixon, the director of the European Center for International Political Economy (ECIPE) in Brussels, "could lead to a larger standstill in efforts to address 21st century trade barriers."The agricultural subsidies, French concerns over their film industry and European concerns over privacy rights with the Obama Administration's extreme surveillance policies all look to be big issues in the TTIP talks.
What should be big issues are the continued effects of the neoliberal trade treaties in undermining wages and salaries for ordinary workers, driving regulatory standards toward a lowest common denominator, weakening unions and boosting the risky, destructive financialization of economies.
Supporters of the TTIP concept in the US hope it will be an easy sell to the Congress:
So far TTIP has not generated widespread controversy in the US. That might be because it's still early days. But it's also because of the nature of the deal, says Charles Kupchan, a transatlantic expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. "Since trade is relatively free and since [the US] and the EU are at similar stages of development, this is not a deal that is going to cause major dislocation," he says. "This is an easier sell politically."The Monitor editorializes in favor of the TTIP concept without worrying much about the destructive effects. And they are also hoping US citizens won't notice what's happening (Why EU-US trade talks should be about more than trade 07/08/2013):
An agreement would create the largest free-trade zone ever – one that would dwarf NAFTA by encompassing 820 million people. The world needs such an economic jolt. Last year, trade expanded at a slower rate than the growth in domestic economies, reversing a trend that had helped create rising prosperity after World War II.The TTIP, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) also being prepared, certainly need to provoke debate and protest in the US and in Europe, too.
The days when trade talks could spark mass protests – such as those in Seattle in 1999 – are probably over. Trade itself has slowly knitted bonds and common interests across borders and redefined the identities of many people. The world now Googles together, eats sushi, or watches "Downton Abbey."
Not every country will get what it wants or avoid what it fears. Trade involves trade-offs. But more than that, it also leads to an enlarged sense of community. Trade deals are not only mutual back-scratching. They might also lead to an embrace of the other as one’s own. [my emphasis]
Andrew Gavin Marshall characterizes the TTIP as follows (Large Corporations Seek U.S.–European 'Free Trade Agreement' to Further Global Dominance Alternet 05/10/2013):
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is the latest corporate-driven agenda in what is commonly called a "free trade agreement," but which really amounts to 'cosmopolitical corporate consolidation': large corporations dictating and directing the policies of states – both nationally and internationally – into constructing structures which facilitate regional and global consolidation of financial, economic, and political power into the hands of relatively few large corporations.Tags: neoliberalism, transatlantic trade and investment partnership, trans-pacific partnership, tpp, ttip
Such agreements have little to do with actual 'trade,' and everything to do with expanding the rights and powers of large corporations. Corporations have become powerful economic and political entities – competing in size and wealth with the world’s largest national economies – and thus have taken on a distinctly 'cosmopolitical' nature. Acting through industry associations, lobby groups, think tanks and foundations, cosmopolitical corporations are engineering large projects aimed at transnational economic and political consolidation of power... into their hands. [ellipsis in original] With the construction of "a European-American free-trade zone" as "an ambitious project," we are witnessing the advancement of a new and unprecedented global project of transatlantic corporate colonization. [my emphasis]