BRUSSELS – As negotiations between the European Union and the United States over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) move toward a final agreement, opponents of the proposed pact are becoming more vocal. Criticism of any major economic-policy change is only natural, but failing to reach agreement on this accord would be a historic mistake – one that Europe will soon regret. Indeed, the TTIP could turn out to be the most important bulwark of transatlantic unity since the North Atlantic Treaty established NATO in 1949.
In considering the significance of the proposed treaty, it is important to remember that European integration began with the creation of a common market for coal and steel. The founding fathers of what is now the EU were well aware of the long-term strategic potential of what many at the time regarded as an inconsequential technocratic measure. Integration of commodity markets gradually spilled over to trade liberalization, the creation of a common market, and, finally, to the establishment of joint political institutions.
Today, North America and Europe account for close to a half of the world’s total output. The establishment of a free-trade zone between the two blocs is expected to generate an additional €100 billion ($107 billion) a year on each side of the Atlantic, as well as create millions of new jobs.
But the economic benefits are just one part of the picture. Just as free trade and open markets stimulated political cooperation in Europe, TTIP has the potential to contribute to strategic unity across the Atlantic – an objective that is as important now as it has ever been.