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July 8, 2013

IPI participating this week in TTIP negotiations

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This week marks the initial negotiating session for the new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement, which is a new free trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union. And IPI will be there.

Like most trade agreements, the goals include lowering tariffs, but because the E.U. countries are for the most part advanced economies, there will be more focus on technical regulations, standards and certifications—all designed to make it easier to sell and ship goods between the U.S. and the E.U.

There’s nearly a $trillion per year in trade between the U.S. and the E.U., but the barriers are such that both sides of the agreement think there are $billions in savings to be achieved by lowering tariffs and otherwise making it easier to do business across the pond.

News reports suggest that a major goal of the E.U. is to establish some sort of mutual financial services regulation authority, which I think it going to be a tough thing for market-oriented conservatives and Republicans. Not sure it’s a great idea to cede sovereignty to a supranational organization. Dodd-Frank is terrible enough for the U.S. economy, much less a Dodd-Frank where the French and the Belgians have a say.

But liberalized trade should be a key policy priority for free-marketeers, and that’s why IPI invests some of our effort in the trade area, unlike (frankly) most other think tanks. During the also ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, IPI has participated in five of the negotiating rounds, sharing our perspectives on some of the controversial issues as a stakeholder. During those sessions, IPI was the only group from the center-right perspective at any of those sessions.

Intellectual property issues, an area where IPI focuses significant attention, are always a controversial part of trade negotiations. But they’re not innately controversial—they’re controversial because of the Free Culture movement, and how the Free Cultists have so poisoned any discussions of maintaining intellectual property protection. European IP skeptic activists killed ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, for frankly no good reason—just the spread of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). They’re already primed and ready to condemn the TTIP as nothing more than the second coming of ACTA, which is not true, though the TTIP will no doubt contain IP provisions. We think that’s entirely appropriate and not some kind of conspiracy. In a knowledge economy, trade between major economies is obviously going to involve goods that result from the knowledge businesses. Reaching agreement on policies involving copyright, patents and trademarks should be expected in such an agreement.

The Free Cultists have become expert in destroying agreements like this by complaining about a lack of transparency, as if somehow countries don’t have the sovereign right to negotiate agreements between themselves without opening up the process to every Tom, Dick and Harry who claims an interest. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has lately developed a process of allowing stakeholders (like IPI) to have access to negotiators and to be regularly briefed on negotiations while still allowing negotiators the privacy and confidentiality they need to represent the interests of their respective governments. There is nothing improper about such confidentiality between nations, and USTR is to be complimented on the process they’ve developed. IPI looks forward to participating in the process.

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