Posted on: 22 September 2016 By: Ray

ttip-europages

The Transatlantic trade and investment partnership, in its 14th round of negotiations in New York this week, has suffered from highly critical statements by the French and German trade ministers, and the two US presidential candidates. Major events this week were to decide its fate, including a convention of the German SPD party, a statement by US President Barack Obama and the resumption of TTIP negotiation meetings in New York. What does it mean for European and American SMEs, do we need a trade agreement to improve business?

The Transatlantic trade and investment partnership, in its 14th round of negotiations in New York this week, has suffered from highly critical statements by the French and German trade ministers, and the two US presidential candidates. Major events this week were to decide its fate, including a convention of the German SPD party, a statement by US President Barack Obama and the resumption of TTIP negotiation meetings in New York. What does it mean for European and American SMEs, do we need a trade agreement to improve business?

Stalling and efforts to re-start the process

So why is the process stalling? Following rising queries by European stakeholders, including MEPs stating they were not given the same access to negotiations as US Congresspeople, a “TIPPleak” operation by Greenpeace in April, French and German trade ministers Matthias Fekl and Sigmar Garbriel’s statements late August, French President Hollande said “We will never accept questioning essential principles for our agriculture, our culture and for the reciprocity of access to public [procurement] markets”. Granted, negotiating text proposals were made available on the EU website in July, but is this enough to “save private TIPP”?

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström and ad US trade representative (USTR) Michael Froman met Thursday, 15 September to prepare to resume meetings of the 14th New York round to take place the week of 3 October. © USTR EU Trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström and ad US Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman met Thursday, 15 September to prepare to resume meetings of the 14th New York round to take place the week of 3 October. © USTR

Considering precedents such as the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) brokered by the OECD in the second half of the 1990s,  closed-doors negotiations on investment dispute settlement and similar allegations of threats to European agriculture and culture provoked a popular outcry and the project failed. There are evidently entrenched vocal vested interests in Europe, but probably in America too, that are seriously opposed to a free trade agreement between the two.

SMEs’ place in the process

Surely there is a view among SMEs and other stakeholders on both sides of the “pond”, that harmonized standards in a trade agreement can benefit their mutual business?

According to the USTR, in 2015, ninety-nine percent of European and US companies—over 20 million companies in the European Union and 28 million in the United States—are SMEs. In the European Union, SMEs provide two-thirds of all private sector jobs and have a tremendous capacity to create new employment. 85% of net new jobs between 2002 and 2010 were created by SMEs. In the United States, small businesses have provided over half of all jobs and two-thirds of all net new jobs in recent decades.

The policy discourse on the value of SMEs for economies has been glowing since a couple of decades, but the distance separating the small business owner and the official policy-maker remains great. The USTR (April 2015) offers a report on opportunities for SMEs, while the EU has a page on “helping smaller firms. Both are based on portraits of SMEs, while the American one includes more USTR explanation and examples of EU firms as well as American ones.

How to overcome the suspicion – of industrial espionage (cyber-hacking), “economic patriotism” and distinguish them from run-of-the-mill healthy competition? Do European and American SMEs need a Trade agreement (among other mechanisms intended to “help” them)? Europages proposes to follow up with analyses and tips for SMEs to keep track of TTIP negotiations and other initiatives intended to develop business and make your voice heard!

To find out more….

Trade Barriers That U.S. Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Perceive as Affecting Exports to the European Union” March 2014, U.S. International Trade Commission

Highlight stats on US SMEs exports : U.S. EXPORT FACT SHEET, April 2015 Export Statistics Released June 3, 2015


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