TTIP Is Losing Steam Both in the USA and in Europe

Some opponents are viewing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as an instrument to bypass the nation-state and to give too much rights to transnational corporations.

The TTIP has become the centre of a political nexus, uniting against it both the left (the opposition of the so-called “Left Front” and of its charismatic leader M. Jean-Luc Melenchon is well known) and now the populist right as the National Front and its leader, Mrs Marine Le Pen, have taken a strong position against the Treaty. This opposition has reached the government. Public statements from President François Hollande and his Foreign-Trade minister are indicating a turn against the Treaty.

This turn is to be understood in the French specific political context. We are seeing both good and bad reasons to make stances against the TTIP. Among good reasons, some of them are very well known. We have a quite common fear that the TTIP would dismantle the protective norm system of French agriculture. Fears here seem to be quite founded be it on the ground of public safety or linked to the quality of some products. It is quite interesting that opposition to the TTIP did not come from the main farmer lobby, the FNSEA, but from organisations defending small and medium-sized farms, which are mostly producing high-quality food. But, the legacy of the “mad cow” disease 20 years ago is also playing for defending French and EU norms against US ones. In the current context of the agricultural crisis in France, these fears are playing a particularly important part of the opposition to the TTIP.

There is also another fear on a quite completely different issue. Some opponents, be they economists or jurists, are viewing the TTIP as an instrument to bypass the nation-state and to give too much rights to transnational corporations, be it on investment laws or on innovation. One specific fear here is that large transnational corporations could achieve a monopoly on innovation.

These arguments seem quite well founded. Such opposition parties as Melenchon’s one or the National Front share them to different degrees. But we have to take into account also some “political” arguments. Actually, the government and President Hollande are now taking a stance against the Treaty more for political reasons. Feeling the growing popular opposition, they would try to avoid directly entering into a conflict with it. The conclusion of negotiations before the presidential elections could be a disaster for François Hollande. Would the Treaty be signed by the EU, he may face a huge anti-European revolt by his constituents.

This is why he backtracks on the Treaty now. This doesn’t mean he has got really convinced by anti-TTIP arguments. This would imply convictions in a man of none. But he clearly sees the potentially destructive political results of treaty ratification before 2017. This is why he will do whatever he can to stall the ratification process for the next year.

This has been quite well understood by President Obama who too is in a kind of political corner. Obama clearly understands that this Treaty, who would benefit large US corporations, is losing steam both in the USA and also in Europe. Another delay could well spell doom on the Treaty. This is why he put such a pressure for resuming and concluding negotiations now. But, it is a risky gamble. This pressure could well fracture the fragile EU consensus and, as a matter of fact, stall definitely the TTIP. Coming months will apparently see a very intense diplomatic activity as opponents to the Treaty are now both large European population share and governments, albeit not for the same reason.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.