The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: On Track but Off Message?

On June 17, 2013, US President Barack Obama, along with the presidents of the European Council, European Commission and the prime minister of Britain, announced that the United States and European Union would begin negotiations to establish what would be the world’s largest free trade area—the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). In an economic environment where the US and Europe are both looking for ways to spark sustainable growth, expanding trade and investment between the world’s two largest economies appears to be a deficit-neutral path forward to create jobs and foster a stronger recovery.

Over the course of the first year, negotiating teams from both sides of the Atlantic have endeavored to ensure that the talks would be as comprehensive as possible, covering as many areas of international commerce as they could, to ensure that TTIP would eventually serve as a global model for future trade liberalization efforts. Since the start of negotiations, several factors have hindered the talks over the course of their first year—ranging from the NSA surveillance controversy to the US government shutdown in October and the strong opposition from several public interest groups to the inclusion of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions in the ultimate agreement. Now, the geopolitical crisis ushered in by Russia’s incursion into Ukraine has taken over the transatlantic agenda just as the US-EU Summit is set for the end of March. Still, as the talks move into their second year, it is clear that 2014 is the time to begin the real work of forming an agreement. Both sides have set out their initial negotiating positions, found elements of common ground and laid out the provisions where they have the most work left. This promises to be a pivotal year in determining whether the TTIP will move forward.

Last year, as the talks were beginning, the Atlantic Council and the Bertelsmann Foundation conducted a survey of more than 120 interested stakeholders from the public and private sectors on both sides of the Atlantic to gauge their views on the eventual outcomes of the talks, as well as to measure which potential policy areas would be the most important and most difficult on which to achieve convergence. After a challenging first year of talks, we have conducted a follow-up survey to assess how those views have changed.

This year more than 300 respondents took part. To properly measure the shifting viewpoints of business leaders, government officials, and public interest groups, questions were kept the same from last year’s survey. New questions were also added, addressing particular challenges to the TTIP negotiations, including questions concerning data protection and privacy, transparency and government communication strategies to describe the potential benefits and costs of the agreement. Finally, the analysis of survey data and potential sticking points over the past year encouraged us to compare the results between our European and American audiences to see where they converge and diverge most widely.

The results of this year’s survey were particularly enlightening: While all parties remain cautiously optimistic that the TTIP negotiations will eventually prove successful, it is clear that the timeline for reaching a final agreement has shifted to 2016 or beyond. Additionally, the survey found a significant divide in views on the level of transparency with which the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) and the European Commission are conducting the talks, with Americans more satisfied with this aspect than their European counterparts. Finally, Survey Methodology The Atlantic Council and the Bertelsmann Foundation surveyed more than 300 respondents from business, academia, government, legislatures and the media via an electronic survey. Participants were selected on the basis of their expertise in trade policy and familiarity with the issues at hand in the negotiations. Respondents came from both the US and Europe, with stakeholders from Washington, Brussels and Germany heavily represented. The survey was conducted between February 25 and March 7, 2014. there have been important shifts in opinion on which topics are the most important or will be most difficult to resolve—after a year, it is clear that data protection issues are of paramount importance to both Europeans and Americans, while financial services regulations will be incredibly difficult to resolve within the auspices of TTIP. As the talks continue it is our hope that these survey results can help shine a light on the issues that public opinion in the US and Europe deems most important, while also emphasizing the areas where negotiators should focus.

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