TTIP and the Legitimate Fears of German Public Opinion

Written by | Saturday, March 5th, 2016

ElvireFabry (Notre Europe – Jacques Delors Institute)

The level of support of the public for the finalization of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) obviously varies among individual EU countries. However, what comes as a surprise is the hesitant and sometimes even wary view of the German public because the country has always been among the major supporters of trade cooperation. The current cautious approach stems mainly from the concerns that the TTIP could threaten the lifestyles and values of the Europeans and, at the same time, EU countries would lose their sovereignty in market regulation, which would get out of the democratic scrutiny. Regulators would namely become hostages of big corporations, which would use their lobbying to make them use the so-called regulatory dumping, which basically means lowering standards to the bottom. These concerns are, however, largely in vain.

Previously, the trade cooperation mainly consisted of reducing import duties. This tool is now largely exhausted, which is why the attention of the negotiators of trade agreements is moving towards the harmonization of norms and standards. The claim that the US regulatory standards are clearly worse than the EU ones is not a reflection of the reality. The American adaptation of preventive measures is at the very least comparable to – and in many areas it even surpasses – the EU adaption of the preventive measures. For example, some cosmetic products are registered as non-prescription medicines in the US, and they are therefore monitored more strictly than in European countries.

It is also important to realize that the aim of the TTIP is not to regulate but to facilitate regulatory cooperation. Therefore, like in many other trade agreements, the TTIP does not want to name areas that will be excluded from the jurisdiction of individual regulators, but it aspires to determine those areas in which the regulators will actively cooperate by a careful analysis of various sectors. Because they will still have their democratic mandate and their powers will be transferred to another entity, there should be no threat to the TTIP’s democratic legitimacy. It will be then also necessary to pay attention to maximum transparency to ensure democratic scrutiny by the public, which will also facilitate the acceptance of the TTIP by public opinion.

(The study can be downloaded here

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