De regionale route naar mondiale vrijhandelsakkoorden

MADRID – Nu de zieltogende Doha Ronde van multilaterale vrijhandelsbesprekingen op haar laatste sacramenten wacht, heeft een nieuwe golf van regionale handelsbesprekingen de facto de plaats ingenomen van deze poging om een mondiaal handelsregime van de grond te tillen. De regering van president Barack Obama heeft de Verenigde Staten in het centrum van deze veranderingen geplaatst door tegelijkertijd op twee belangrijke fronten onderhandelingen te voeren: over een Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (Transatlantisch Handels- en Investeringspartnerschap, TTIP) met de Europese Unie, en over een Trans-Pacific Partnership (Trans-Pacific Partnerschap, TPP) met elf landen uit Noord-, Midden- en Zuid-Amerika en Azië.

Als de enige partij die een rol speelt in beide initiatieven verkeren de VS in een goede uitgangspositie om deze initiatieven in harmonie met elkaar te laten verlopen of vooruitgang op het ene front te benutten om vooruitgang op het andere front af te dwingen. Afgezien van de gevolgen voor de directe onderhandelingspartners van Amerika zou deze laatste aanpak de progressie op weg naar het vestigen van een op solide regels gebaseerd wereldhandelssysteem ernstige schade toebrengen.

De nieuwe strategie van regionale onderhandelingen kan alleen slagen en een basis vormen waarop een internationaal handelsregime kan worden gebouwd, als de TTIP en de TPP met elkaar in balans zijn en toegankelijk zijn voor de bredere internationale gemeenschap. Anders bestaat het gevaar dat er dure mondiale onevenwichtigheden worden geschapen of dat dit proces tot versplintering leidt.

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