The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership won’t be focused on already-low tariffs between the U.S. and European Union. It will be focused on so-called “behind the border” measures, like regulation—and that means there will be plenty of stakeholders with strong opinions.
Business groups have thrown their support behind a potential deal. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been pushing for a U.S.-European Union trade agreement for a long time “for the sake of jobs and growth,” as president Thomas Donohue said in February. Manufacturers—particularly the auto industry—have also advocated an agreement to reduce regulatory obstacles across the Atlantic.
The farm lobby would like removal of the various barriers keeping U.S. agricultural products out of Europe, such as a ban on genetically modified crops and meat with feed additives. The E.U.’s refusal to import U.S. chicken washed in chlorine (standard in the United States) has been a particular sticking point. Farm subsidies, if they are included in a potential deal, could be another point of contention.
The AFL-CIO is cautiously optimistic about a trade agreement, seeing the negotiations as a time to potentially strengthen worker protections on each side of the Atlantic.
“Increasing trade ties with the E.U. could be beneficial for both American and European workers, but as with all trade agreements, the rules matter,” the AFL-CIO said in a statement. “A trade agreement with Europe presents an opportunity for the U.S. government to go beyond the ‘lowest common denominator’ approach to labor rights and create truly people-centered trade rules.”
Consumer and privacy advocates, on the other hand, worry that the so-called harmonization of regulations will lead to the removal of vital safeguards. Lori Wallach, who directs Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, fears the trade agreement will be an excuse for stripping away European regulations on chemicals, climate, food safety, and labeling, and U.S. regulations on financial institutions, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals.
U.S. and E.U. consumer groups combined forces last month to write to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and his European counterpart. “We are very skeptical that a trade partnership built around regulatory convergence will serve consumer interests, and we will vigorously oppose a deal that dismantles existing E.U. and U.S. consumer protection,” they said.
Many, many more interest groups are expected to get involved as the wide-ranging agreement is hammered out.
This article appears in the April 18, 2013, edition of NJ Daily as Manufacturers, Ag Interests Will Lobby for Trade Deal.