Caution and patience needed for sound TTIP talks

In October 2015, a statement by Foreign Trade State Secretary Matthias Fekl said the French government retained the halt to negotiations among its options about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP or TAFTA).

More recently, negotiations would be “about to fall” notably because of an alleged possible veto from France. Prime Minister Manuel Valls reiterated his “concern” as for “the turn” taken by the transatlantic talks. Saying that a pause would be possible in case negotiations don’t result in a good deal European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom remained however quite optimistic as for the final outcome.

From Brussels indeed, negotiations are difficult but their purpose, namely the conclusion of the TTIP, will be concretized, sooner or later, by the end of 2016 or afterwards. As a consequence, one should perhaps question the role played by politics in the French statements regarding the TTIP as President François Hollande could be tempted by a “no” posture in view of the 2017 elections, and finally simply postponing the agreement. However many European countries are exporting products and labels that are essential to their national economy and which could be weakened by the TTIP.

There are thus real reasons to take more time if not reject the TTIP as it’s being introduced today, unfortunately with too little details. Also, considering the relative uncertainty regarding the Brexit and the 2017 electoral deadlines in France and Germany, it could be counterproductive to accelerate the signing of a controversial agreement while the existence of the EU in its present form looks uncertain. Finally, the growing skepticism of GOP presidential candidates about the TTIP, especially frontrunner Donald Trump, is an additional invitation to caution and/or patience.