Negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade agreement between the EU and the US, began in July last year. 2014 may see the trade talks being brought to a conclusion. However, to many, the negotiation process seems opaque, excluding social partners. This leads to fears about the TTIP’s impact on important issues such as SMEs and on workers’ rights.
UNITEE, in close collaboration with CESI, the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions, and U4U, Union for Unity, organised the lunch time debate on Monday 28th of April 2014 in Brussels at CESI premises, where a panel discussion took place with interventions from:
The panel was introduced with a welcome statement from Romain Wolff, CESI President, moderated by Bernd Hüttemann, Secretary General of European Movement Germany, and ended with a closing statement of Dr Adem Kumcu, UNITEE President.
The TTIP aims at the reduction of tariffs to improve conditions of trade. In itself, positive developments that can benefit SMEs. Jan Schmitz stated “What we intend to do with the TTIP is to improve the system”. Criticising this approach, Paul de Clerck pointed out that tariffs are already very low. A real impact can only be managed through addressing non-tariff barriers, for example through harmonisation of standards between the EU and the US. This however, could lower standards, and therefore cause negative effects on society as a whole.
Impact on SMEs and Society
The level of scepticism is growing among organisations and citizens. Many critics put forward the idea that even though consumers and SMEs are supposed to be the ones benefiting the most from trade, the negotiations of the TTIP are more of “a business-driven agenda”, as Paul de Clerck believes himself.
The US seems to embrace the agreement with less reluctance.“Indeed”, says Andreas Galanakis “in USA there is a broad support for TTIP”.
Dr Adem Kumcu, closed the panel illustrating how TTIP is more crucial for SMEs with ethnic and migrant backgrounds, since their levels of international trade are higher given by their multiculturalism.
View the picture gallery here.