Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

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The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), between the European Union and the United States has been under negotiation since 2013. The idea of a transatlantic free trade treaty was created in the framework of the WTO process, and launched in the 1990s. It is now deadlocked. The agreement aims to bring these two economic spaces closer together. It also aims to do away with the obstacles that still exist to the free circulation of goods and services as well as to foster transnational investments.

As an illustration of a new generation free trade agreements, TTIP is not limited to reducing or eliminating trade barriers and tariffs; it also aims to harmonise the norms and standards and strengthen the protection of patents and institutionalise the mechanisms for protecting investments. This is better known as the procedures of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).

Resistance bears fruit

The agreement was quickly met by strong opposition. Many NGOs rightly reproach the negotiating parties for their lack of transparency, as well as the way in which they have prioritised transnational corporations’ interests. The lobbyists of the major industrial and services companies have been kept informed of the negotiations, whereas the civil society organisations and general public have been kept in the dark. Various alliances have been created between political, environmental, development and consumer organisations to fight TTIP and other similar free trade agreements. They have successfully mobilised a wide section of public opinion and submitted requests to national authorities to suspend or reject the agreement.

It is important not to underestimate the impact that TTIP would have on world trade and on third-party countries. The rapprochement of the two economic spaces of the United States and the European Union would imply establishing shared norms and protection mechanisms for investments, as well as limiting the powers of State regulation; it would also oblige third party States to implement the standards and rules foreseen in the agreement, to compensate for their competitive disadvantage compared with the signatory States.

This would also apply to Switzerland. The developing countries would be the most disadvantaged, as they are currently obliged to take State measures to stimulate their own economies and develop their local know-how. Were they to lose these possibilities, they would become even more confined to the role of suppliers of raw materials and cheap labour for the major corporations of the industrialised countries.

Given the current uncertainties concerning the United States strategy on trade policy, the negotiations of this agreement will most likely remain deadlocked for the foreseeable future.