Barack Obama hopes to be able to sign the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) before the end of his term as president of the US. He wishes to leave this as his legacy together with that of the Trans-Pacific Treaty which still has to be ratified. But this target will probably be missed as time is running out. On one hand, Europeans are digging their feet in. Opposition has increased considerably following the leaking of working documents by Greenpeace. On the other, neither of the leading candidates from the Republican and Democrat parties look upon the agreement favourably.
Debate on the treaty in the US has been overshadowed by the primaries to chose the candidates in the forthcoming presidential elections. Press coverage of the, highly secretive, negotiations has been negligible leaving the citizens of the US unable to discuss the pros and cons of the treaty before taking up their own positions. Candidates from both parties declared their opposition to the TPT (signed with 11 Pacific-rim countries) from the outset and the TTIP with the Europeans has tended to be included in the same (negative) bundle
On the Republican side, the future candidate, Donald Trump, has vocalised his adamant opposition the Free-Trade Treaties signed by the US in general: NAFTA; TPT and the TTIP which is still on the negotiating table. The basis for his argument is that these treaties (especially the TPT) is destroying American jobs as firms move manufacture offshore to pay less tax and employ cheap labour. The Republicans also argue that the treaties require far too many concessions with respect to environmental legislation, labour protection laws, copyrights, etc. and are, in general “bad for the US”.
The two leading Democrat candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have also expressed their opposition. The basis of Hillary Clinton’s hostility is that all Free Trade Treaties lower US wages. Bernie Sander’s aversion also includes the view that these treaties are written by and for the benefit of large corporations.
Within the Republican Party, Donald Trump’s opposition to the treaties that are currently being ratified in Congress (TPT) or still being negotiated (TTIP) are not universally accepted. For example, Paul Ryan (Speaker of the House of Representatives) favours the treaties saying: “if the US doesn’t grab it’s chances, others will”.
Whilst the candidates continue with their in-fighting, the Obama administration forges ahead with its plans to persuade the Europeans of the advantages of the treaty and the mutual benefits that will ensue from its approval. The US Department of Commerce presents TTIP as an ambitious agreement of trade and investment that will deliver important benefits to companies and workers as lowering trade barriers will offer great opportunities for American firms to compete in the world. The TTIP will provide new opportunities for American firms who already export some 20% of their products and services to Europe.