The negotiations with the United States need to move more quickly.
The European Commission’s transparency offensive is helping deflect criticism of factual arguments almost everywhere in the European Union. It has succeeded in convincing the majority of citizens in all but four E.U. member states. Unfortunately, Germany is one of the exceptions.
The lack of sufficient openness and transparency at the beginning of the negotiations unnecessarily provided opponents with points of attack, enabling them to weave myths and conspiracy theories that continue to feed the anti-TTIP campaign to this day. Lawmakers and the business community allowed the debate to rage much too long because many assumed that TTIP, like all previous free-trade agreements, would only interest experts and not the public.
Part of the problem is that free trade supporters didn’t campaign hard enough, allowing opponents to shape opinion, and to lead it. An analysis of the anti-TTIP campaign by the ECIPE Institute in Brussels has shown that of the 50 top speakers at information events, only a dozen supported the agreement. The majority of events were sponsored by parties like the Green Party and the Left Party that explicitly spoke against TTIP. Proponents and businesses didn’t do enough to counter these strong campaigns and strong arguments by anti-globalization activitists.
Facts can refute slogans like “TTIP kills, stop TTIP.” The actual significance of free trade is the complete opposite of what opponents are saying. Free trade does not stand for unregulated machinations by a couple of large corporations, but for rules that create a reliable framework that gives all economic players – from companies to consumers – the same confidence to establish foreign partnerships or buy foreign products.
The United States is Germany’s most important foreign trade partner, with France in second place. Our growth in exports is of special importance to all of Europe, greatly benefiting the auto industry, machine building and the chemical, pharmaceutical and food industries. Millions of jobs are secured worldwide through our successes.
Standards are only set from a position of economic strength, and either we set those standards or we allow others to do it. In the wake of the Brexit vote, this is precisely the time to take advantage of the opportunity for Europe, and to prove that Europe can and will actively shape globalization and establish standards worldwide.
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