Germany’s Strange Turn Against Trade

BERLIN – The window of opportunity to complete the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union is closing quickly. National elections will be held this year and next in the US, France, and Germany, and the campaigns will play out in an environment that is increasingly hostile to international agreements in any form. The biggest risk might come from the least likely source: Germany, an export powerhouse.

As it stands, some 70% of Germans citizens oppose the TTIP, almost twice the average in other European countries. They overwhelmingly believe that Germany will not benefit economically, that lower-skill workers’ wages will suffer, that large corporations will gain power at the expense of consumers, that data and environmental protection will be compromised, and that citizens’ rights will be undermined.

But a slew of studies have proved all of these claims to be overblown or outright wrong. In fact, Germany – whose economic progress since the end of World War II has been driven by its consistent openness to international trade and economic integration, and which remains one of Europe’s most open and trade-dependent economies – would be among the main beneficiaries of the TTIP.

It is projected that the TTIP would raise annual per capita income in Germany by 1-3%, or €300-1,000 per year by 2035. Moreover, with nearly 50% of German jobs linked, directly or indirectly, to the tradable sector, the deal would also help protect employment. And, by boosting the ability of the US and Europe to set global business standards, German firms’ international competitiveness would rise. Not every individual or company stands to gain from the TTIP, but the net effect on Germany’s economy and citizens would be clearly positive.