Trade agreements

TTIP and chlorinated chickens to save the world

The world is full of conflicts. What we see every day on the evening news is becoming increasingly scary. What's the role of trade agreements in all of this? TTIP, for example?

Unrest in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. The IS continues to expand its territory. The Ukrainian crisis remains unresolved. Even the battle for the Falkland Islands is experiencing a revival. And this just names a few.

Of course, conflicts like these have always been around. But somehow it seems to me that the level of violence in global confrontations is recently on an even steeper rise than before. And I’m more and more concerned about things getting completely out of hand and becoming altogether unmanageable.

In fact – why has this tipping point not yet been reached? Rationality or common sense alone surely cannot be the reason. If they were, many bloody conflicts would not have started in the first place. So, there seem to be other factors that help keep a lid on such global conflicts.

My hypothesis: Commercial interests play an important role. With this, I mean closely interlinked economic relations between global states and nations.

Apart from terror, fear, and the loss of many innocent and often underprivileged people’s lives, each conflict also presents an actual and tangible threat to regional prosperity. And, thanks to some kind of self-regulation, threats to prosperity often affect those in power more directly than those suffering below, which is why international trade and underlying commercial aspects function as a highly effective corrective measure to assist bringing peace to conflict areas.

Or, at least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

Chlorinated US chickens to the rescue?

I’m seriously wondering why the media and official public relation representatives of TTIP supporters haven’t picked up on this logical connection yet. As you know, TTIP stands for “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the European Union and the United States”.

Why don’t they apply such global security arguments much more to promote TTIP? They still tend to argue with facts and numbers from financial and employment angles:

  • Joseph Francois, Professor of Economics at Johannes Kepler University Linz and a Research Fellow in the CEPR International Trade and Regional Economics Program, points out euphorically that TTIP would generate additional export profits of an impressive €119 billion. Broken down individually, this would amount to an additional €545 per European household. You can find the full final project report on “Reducing Transatlantic Barriers to Trade and Investment – An Economic Assessment” here.
  • In another study conducted by the “ifo Institute” in Germany, and commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, TTIP is expected to generate 400,000 additional jobs. More details are available in the project report on “Potential impact of TTIP on developing and emerging countries” here.

To be honest, even for me as a fundamental optimist, these forecasts include too high-pitched, perhaps even unrealistic, expectations. But generally, I also expect and assume overall positive impacts of TTIP on a commercial level.

Unfortunately, as with everything, TTIP comes with a price and a couple of justified concerns should to be taken into account, such as:

  1. The watering down of standards – particularly in the health and food sector. But also environmental and bioethical standards that we established after many long and heated debates in the EU are at stake.
  2. Aspects and critical questions relating to labor law and social standards.
  3. And of course, the Pandora’s Box with investment protection agreements.

I will examine these aspects of TTIP in more detail in my next post in this blog. I’m really wondering a bit about the coverage of the agreement’s pros and cons on both sides of the Atlantic. Media reports and public perception seem all heated up and focused on the discussion about chlorinated chickens.

It seems at the end of the day, it’s those chlorinated chickens that are to blame: just because we don’t want chlorinated chickens in Europe, and the US doesn’t want untreated chickens with potential bacteria on their side – we won’t agree on TTIP.

Let’s focus on what really matters

Well, the topic is much more complex than a mere choice between chemically washed or chemically untreated chickens. And I’m kind of afraid, that current debates about unfair allocation of benefits (or the perception of it) divert the attention from what really matters: the actual goal, content, and regulations of such free trade agreements (FTAs).

So, what are the benefits of TTIP for both sides? Is it just about dollars and euros? Or is there more to it? Isn’t it also and more importantly about reducing the risk of military conflicts between two major regions of our world – Europe and the US? And about economically and politically stable relations? Maybe tolerating the presence of chlorinated chickens on our supermarket shelves may save at least parts of the world?

For today, I’ll come to the following conclusion on TTIP:

Not the agreement or its contents are the problem, but the distribution and perception of its benefits. Just because the benefit distribution does not seem right, should the entire agreement be dubbed as bad? Or is there maybe a much greater benefit lingering far beyond dollars and euros? Is it possible that being more tolerant about chickens will help promote general tolerance and help to reduce conflicts on a global level, too?

Can chlorinated chickens save the world after all? Stay tuned for part two on this topic. And contact me on LinkedIn or XING if you would like to discuss. 

More information about software solutions in the area of trade agreements: 

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