Most American trade-deal naysayers have been concentrating their fire on the recently concluded 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP). They have yet to turn their heavy artillery against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a U.S.-EU compact that is still being negotiated.
The Europeans, however, have locked and loaded on TTIP. The other week some 150,000 jammed the streets of Berlin to assail this "Trojan Treaty (http://tiny.cc/…)." That's an allusion to the legendary oversized hollow horse Greek soldiers hid inside to enter and conquer the ancient city of Troy. To underscore their point, the protestors dragged around larger-than-life wooden and inflatable horses.
One of the protestors' main fears is that TTIP would open Europe's door to American GMOs, something many American farmers would welcome. European negotiators have vowed it won't happen. The protestors don't believe them.
Genetic engineering is also a concern to some American opponents of the Trans-Pacific deal, but in a different way. Their fears focus on the impact of TPP on GMO-labeling; market access for GMOs isn't really an issue in this deal.
A bigger issue for American objectors to TPP is the lack of enforceable rules against currency manipulation. As I mentioned in a recent post (http://tiny.cc/…), many non-Americans regard the U.S. as the world's worst currency manipulator. Indeed, it's one of Europe's worries about TTIP.
Frenchman Jean Arthuis is a European Parliament member who last year laid out "Seven Good Reasons To Oppose the Transatlantic Treaty." Here's his reason Number Six:
"I object to the signing of an agreement if it does not include the end of the U.S. monetary dumping. Since the abolition of the gold convertibility of the dollar and the transition to the system of floating exchange rates, the dollar is both American national currency and the main unit for exchange reserves in the world. The Federal Reserve then continually practices monetary dumping, by influencing the amount of dollars available to facilitate exports from the United States."
Back to the TPP for a moment: It is, in the words of Wall Street Journal columnist Greg Ip, "an effort to shape globalization according to American standards of economic conduct (http://tiny.cc/…)." Vietnam, whose only labor union is an organ of the Communist Party, will have to accept independent unions. Malaysia will have to give up procurement rules favoring ethnic Malays over Chinese and Indian Malaysians. Brunei will have to institute a minimum wage.
All 11 other countries will give up more sovereignty in TPP than the U.S., Ip says, yet all 11 are considered likely to adopt the deal anyway. To Ip, it seems ironic that the only country where passage seems precarious is the U.S.
The TTIP looks like a different bowl of alphabet soup. There were anti-TTP demonstrations in countries like New Zealand but they paled in comparison to the massive anti-TTIP rally in Berlin. Can European negotiators ignore the hosts in the streets? If the negotiators do a deal, will European politicians ratify it? And will any deal that can be ratified in Europe have enough in it for the U.S. to secure Congressional approval?
It's hard to see how negotiators will square this circle of questions as far as agriculture is concerned. In the interest-group political battles over adopting past trade pacts, U.S. agriculture has been a key supporter. It will be interesting to see if ag will be able to support a TTIP deal negotiated under the glare of popular European defiance.