The Economics, Geopolitics, and Architecture of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: A Cato Online Forum

In mid-2013, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations were launched to great fanfare with a pledge from its architects to conclude a deal within one year on a “single tank of gas.” Nearly two and a half years and 10 negotiating rounds later, a final TTIP deal is nowhere in sight. Well, if there is anything that trade policy observers should know by now to be an ironclad law of physics, it’s that deadlines for concluding negotiations are never respected.

Concluding trade agreements can be a long and arduous process, especially if the United States or the European Union is a party to the negotiations.  So when the United States and the European Union (who are used to dictating the terms of trade deals to smaller economies) are both party to a negotiation, it probably makes sense to budget in a little extra time for refueling – and perhaps even a new set of tires.

With that in mind, on October 12 the Cato Institute’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies will host a conference titled: Will the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Live Up to Its Promise? Featuring 30-35 international trade and investment policy experts from academia, think tanks, business, and government, the conference will examine the economics, geopolitics, and architecture of the TTIP during a full day of panel presentations, interviews, and debates. The program is open to the public and you are encouraged to attend.

Among the many questions that will be raised during the conference are:

  • What are the prospects for reaching a comprehensive trade and investment deal between the United States and the European Union?
  • What exactly is under negotiation, and what is the strategy for advancing those negotiations?
  • Would it make sense to exclude sacred-cow issues that will only bog down the negotiations?
  • Is it wise to continue pursuing a single comprehensive deal for all issues on the table, or is it better to aim for a sequence of smaller agreements?
  • Should a deal include other closely integrated countries, such as Canada, Mexico, and Turkey?
  • How will TTIP affect the multilateral trading system, relations with the BRICS countries, and prospects for developing countries?
  • Where are the biggest potential gains for U.S. and European businesses?  For consumers and taxpayers?
  • What are the major domestic political impediments?

In conjunction with the conference, each participant has been asked to write an essay of approximately 1,500 words on any aspect of the TTIP that he or she finds interesting, important, or compelling.  Those essays will be published and stored in this space – one or two per day – beginning today and running through the week following the conference, when the 11th Round of TTIP negotiations will be taking place in Miami. I hope you will peruse, if not closely read these essays, which represent a broad range of views from experts with different opinions about the importance, propriety, scope, and specific contents of the TTIP. Your feedback is welcome and encouraged.

With that background, the first essay is from Jim Kolbe of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, who gives a solid overview of the stakes and potential benefits of TTIP, while describing the formidible obstacles the negotiators will need to surmount.