The negotiations for an EU-US trade deal - also known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) - continue to provoke debate. The international trade committee discussed on 18 March the potential benefits with representatives from business, trade unions, consumer and environmental organisations. Committee chair Bernd Lange, a German member of the S&D group, explained: “I have many meetings on TTIP and one question always comes up – what will this mean for me specifically?"
Trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström gave several examples of how small and medium-sized enterprises could potentially benefit from an agreement, from shoemakers in Spain who now pay tariffs of 35% on their exports to the US to a Finnish airport equipment maker who faces limits on how much it can sell in the US because of public procurement restrictions.
“There are 4.7 million European jobs thanks to exports to the US," Malmström said. "We want to create new export possibilities and a bigger demand for these higher-paid jobs.” She also added that consumers would benefit from a wider choice of products at lower prices, while companies would become more competitive by being able to reduce the costs of imports.
Business representatives spoke of growth opportunities resulting from removing customs duties and opening up access to the US market. Susanne Lindberg-Elmgren, a representative of the Swedish trade unions, said: “Workers need more investment and trade. There will be some winners and losers in terms of employment, but we hope to have a bigger number of winners than losers."
Jos Dingsn from environmental group Transport and Environment, raised concerns that in return to US concessions on opening up markets, the EU might allow “US influence on how we make our regulations”.
The members of the international trade committee highlighted different aspects of a potential agreement during the discussion.
German EPP member Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl welcomed the positive feedback from experts: “It seems there is a lot of acceptance of TTIP.”
Belgian S&D member Maria Arena suggested having impact assessments after the conclusion of negotiations and before the vote in the EP, as current studies are based on hypothetical gains.
Emma McClarkin, a UK member of the ECR group, said: "There is real ambition for what this deal can deliver. We have the obligation to weigh up the risks, but I believe the benefits far outweigh them."
Yannick Jadot, a French member of the Greens/EFA group, questioned the estimations for growth and jobs that are expected to occur as a result of a deal, saying recent studies show up to 600,000 jobs may be lost. “There is no need to hear fairy tales about the liberal model [creating jobs], when we have 27 million unemployed in Europe."