On March 6th, I attended a breakfast briefing on T-Tip. That’s a two-syllable abbreviation for a four-syllable acronym, TTIP. This in turn is an abbreviation for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. But in less portentous language (and plain English) it means the proposed EU/US free trade deal (FTA), negotiations for which were announced recently.
Let me be clear and avoid misunderstanding here. I’d much rather that the UK had its own FTA with the USA. And if we’d been a free and independent country, I rather suspect we’d have had such a deal with the US ten years ago, if not twenty. But until now, the EU has been much keener on deals with former colonies of continental countries than with the Anglosphere. But they’re catching up now, with Canada and the USA in the frame.
Given that as of today, we’ve off-shored our trade policy to Brussels, I think we have no alternative but to support the deal, even if we’d rather have done it ourselves. And of course in principle free trade is an excellent thing, a consummation devoutly to be wished. Depending on whom you ask, it’s estimated that such a deal would increase GDP growth rates on both sides of the water by half to one percent per annum.
But I have a concern. I remember sitting down with Frenchman Pascal Lamy, who was EU Trade Commissioner 1999/2004 (he’s now DG of the WTO)., and with the (then) Ambassador of Singapore. Both I and the Ambassador were urging Commissioner Lamy to initiate negotiations for an EU/Singapore trade deal. But Lamy made no bones about it. Such a deal would be valuable to Singapore (he ignored the fact that it would also be valuable to the EU) and the EU would therefore offer it as an incentive to ASEAN http://www.asean.org/, the Association of South east Asian nations, to persuade them to adopt a policy of closer political and commercial integration on the EU model.
Be in no doubt: the EU wants to use any trade clout it thinks it has to promote “the European model of governance” around the world. Now Singapore is certainly no push-over, and the USA perhaps less so. But at this morning’s meeting we had the main man from DG Trade, Jean-Luc Demarty (seated alongside US Ambassador William E. Kennard), talking about regulatory convergence, common standards, health and safety, environmental measures and so on.
My fear is that the EU will try so hard to get the USA to adopt Cap’n’Trade (emissions trading), and other “green” measures, and ILO labour standards, and so on, that it will put the whole FTA project at risk. They’re aiming to complete negotiations in 24 months. Time will tell.