Trans-Atlantic Tussle

Uphill Battle for Trade

Malmström-Gabriel-ActionPress-DPA higher res
E.U. Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström will have to work hard to keep Germany's Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel on board.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    If the new E.U. trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, can overcome German objections, a U.S.-E.U. trans-Atlantic free-trade deal could dramatically kick-start economies on both sides of the Atlantic.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Cecilia Malmström became E.U. trade commissioner on November 1. She is leading negotiations between the European Union and United States over a proposed trans-Atlantic free-trade deal.
    • German Social Democrats are wary of the deal, although their leader, Sigmar Gabriel, is supportive.
    • Most Germans want a free-trade deal with the United States, according to a recent poll.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Cecilia Malmström received a warning from her staff when she took over the post of European trade commissioner this month: Watch out for the Social Democrats.

The cautionary note referred to ongoing negotiations between the United States and the European Union over a ground-breaking trans-Atlantic free-trade deal. Europe’s left-leaning political parties could well decide whether the deal passes muster, and many members have been openly skeptical.

“Our (European) standards in areas such as consumer rights, workers’ rights, cultural policies and public sector programs cannot be lowered,” Ralf Stegner, the deputy parliamentary party leader of the SPD in Germany’s Bundestag, told Handelsblatt.

Social Democrats hold “a much more important role than previously, as it will be impossible to get a majority in parliament without their approval,” Ms. Malmström was warned in an internal paper prepared by her staff. “This could require a shift in policy.”

Perhaps that is why Ms. Malmström has made Berlin her first destination since taking over as trade commissioner. She will meet on Monday afternoon with some key people she needs if the trade deal, known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, has any hope of surviving.

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