Wednesday, 16 April 2014

"Sustainable Growth"... and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

The EU and the US have been talking for some time about putting together a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership [TTIP] - to promote 'sustainable growth':

On April 22, 2013, there was a conference hosted at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in co-operation with the European Commission’s Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs, “bring[ing] together US-and Europe-based policy makers, regulators, market analysts and academics.” The aim of the conference was to evaluate the prospects for sustainable economic growth and financial stability, and discuss challenges to transatlantic economic relations posed by the recent episodes of the economic crisis.” Speakers included New York Fed president William Dudley and Vice President of the European Commission, Olli Rehn. Opening Remarks for the Transatlantic Economic Interdependence and Policy Challenges Conference - Federal Reserve Bank of New YorkEUROPA - PRESS RELEASES - Press Release - Policy Challenges in the United States and Europe

Olli Rehn, European Commission Vice President and Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs – a major driving force behind the austerity and adjustment programs – gave the keynote speech at the New York Fed conference. He finished his speech, stating: “we must stay the reform course. We need to deliver in terms of free trade, financial sector reform, structural reforms that boost growth potential, and consistent consolidation of public finances. We must do so in order to create the foundations for sustainable growth and job creation. Facing these challenges, we are indeed partners on both sides of the Atlantic.”

There's a growing and welcome awareness among NATO partners that we can't meet our security needs without stronger, healthier economies. Flagging competitiveness, unsustainable entitlement spending, and the ticking time bomb of oversize sovereign debt threaten our ability to tackle urgent security threats and pose the greatest challenge to the future of the trans-Atlantic community since the Cold War... 
Sustainable growth comes from only one place — the private sector. Government's responsibility is to create conditions in which the private sector can drive economic expansion, investment and job creation. That means trans-Atlantic nations must further open markets, weed out unnecessary regulations, reform taxes, improve the workforce through better education and immigration policies, and let the marketplace, rather than government, pick the winners and losers.

NATO Will Decline Without Strong European And U.S. Economies - Investors.com
Time for EURAFTA? A European Union-American Free Trade Agreement - The Washington Post

However, the use of the term 'sustainable' is very much open to interpretation:
Futures Forum: Sustainable Development: a problem of definition
Futures Forum: Sustainable Development: or sustainable growth
Futures Forum: Sustainable Development: it's a controversial topic...
Futures Forum: Development for Sustainability: what is 'sustainability'?
Futures Forum: The semantics of sustainability: 'sustainable development'... or 'sustainable growth' ... or 'sustained economic growth'... or 'development for sustainability'...

Certainly, American and German citizens are not sure about the proposed transatlantic agreement:
Transatlantic trade deal draws public scepticism - FT.com

And Europeans themselves are rather confused:
The uncertain future of transatlantic trade | European Voice
EU-US trade pact would spur fracking in Europe, report warns

Here's a useful analysis from last week:

Dieter Janecek| 10/04/2014, 14:31|Comments: 1

Back to Square One for TTIP: a Green Agenda for Free Trade

Dieter Janecek, the Green Party's Spokesperson for Economic Policy in the German parliament, describes an alternative TTIP agenda. A free trade agreement based on high ecological and social standards, and informed by the values the USA and the EU share in common, could have an influential impact on global trade. The interest of the common good should be a prominent part of any agreement of this kind, with as many stakeholders as possible being involved.

Free trade is not a strategy of subjugation

No, free trade does not mean the strong having the right to ensure their economic interests always prevail in every corner of the world. The fundamental, liberal idea of free trade put forward by Adam Smith and David Ricardo was cosmopolitan in nature: Trade on the basis of a liberal order and human rights as a counternarrative to imperialism and the despotism of the nation state. The promise of free trade was posited on the assumption that it would result in a more efficient division of labour, a higher degree of specialisation and, above all, greater prosperity thanks to rising productivity.

About 250 years later, the reality is that free trade has not been able to deliver its promises of prosperity for all. The deepening integration of the world economy and rapid global growth have seen inequality increase as well. The unilateral dismantling of trade barriers and policies of isolationism, on the one hand, and the deterioration of social and ecological standards as a result of competition to offer the lowest production costs, on the other, have shattered many people's confidence in free trade. What we have experienced has been, above all, free trade that has advantaged the prosperous industrialised countries. While we in Germany profit from low customs tariffs on highly specialised industrial goods, the EU pumps vast subsidies into its agricultural sector and pursues an aggressive export policy at the expense of the developing countries.

However, free trade does not inevitably have to lead to an asymmetrical distribution of benefits and the erosion of previously protected standards. Innovations, intelligent production methods and the know-how they require are, of course, always decisive factors in who manufactures what products and where. Nevertheless, this does not mean that states are unable to define what standards ought to apply for these products and their manufacturing processes. With the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an attempt is now being made to combine the two most significant economic areas on the planet into a common free trade area. Between them, the USA and the EU represent just over 10% of the world's population, but generate about 50% of global economic output. Without question, this is of significance geopolitically. The consequences for third states will also have to be looked at extremely carefully. The immediate implication for free trade, however, is that the world's two most powerful economic areas are negotiating bilaterally on an equal footing to arrive at a new agreement. And that is a good thing.

What has not been good, though, is the course the negotiations have taken hitherto. They have rightly been criticised for a lack of transparency and the EU's unbalanced negotiating mandate. It is claimed the conduct of the negotiations is not being guided by the common good of employees and consumers, but exclusively by the interests of the parties' export industries. This criticism is necessary and justified in many respects.

The ‘sustainable economy': a leitmotif for the TTIP

An even greater impact would be achieved by a fundamental debate about the opportunities the TTIP holds out, combined with demands for the negotiations to start again from square one. A free trade agreement based on high ecological and social standards, and informed by the values the USA and the EU share in common, could have an influential impact on global trade. The interest of the common good should be a prominent part of any agreement of this kind, with as many stakeholders as possible being involved. The first attempts to formulate such an approach have already been made: Last autumn, civil society groups from all over Europe drew up what they called an ‘Alternative Trade Mandate', an alternative blueprint for free trade in the 21st century:www.alternativetrademandate.org.

Back to Square One for TTIP: a Green Agenda for Free Trade - Your Opinion - Atlantic Community

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