MADRID – Three years ago, the United States and the European Union launched negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), promising to complete them on “one tank of gas.” But now the talks are running on fumes, with sniping on both sides and the political window for an agreement closing fast.
The obstacles that the TTIP negotiations have run up against are not exclusive to that agreement. They reflect a broader trend – one that demands a fundamental rethink of the prevailing approach to trade and free-trade agreements.
It is no secret that the backlash against such agreements has been gaining traction in recent years. In the US, both presumptive nominees for the presidency – the Democrats’ Hillary Clinton and the Republicans’ Donald Trump – have espoused anti-trade views, with Trump projecting a mercantilist approach unseen in mainstream US political debate since before World War II. Moreover, it looks increasingly unlikely that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the US has negotiated with 11 other Pacific Rim countries, will receive congressional support.
Politicians in Europe are also following voters in turning against the TTIP. French President François Hollande, in particular, has intensified his opposition to the agreement in the run-up to next year’s presidential election. Support for the agreement has weakened so significantly, in fact, that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has called for leaders to reaffirm their commitment to the deal at this month’s European Council.