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Schadenfreude – TTIP: US energy and European trade can thwart a new Soviet bloc

A strong trade deal between America with its oil and gas and Europe with its open trade policies would be an important confirmation of a common purpose. A weak deal would mark a failure. And there can be no doubt that Putin would use such a false start for his own ends – reports our secret columnist in Brussels Schadenfreude

After a number of sessions, the European Union-United States negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership have not made serious progress. The EU team has been concerned to protect the consumer and environmental protection rules, which the American side is seeking to modify.

The US particularly wants to open up the market for its exports of meat. Europe has offered only a ‘tariff-rate quota’ – ‘TRQ’ in the jargon – that would allow a reduced tariff for a fixed quantity. The EU negotiators have been pressing for an energy chapter to open up the market to increased imports. Hitherto, the American side has been cagey. For it does not actually need a European market.

Although, the Ukraine crisis may potentially provoke changes in the negotiating stances. It becomes of cardinal importance that the solidarity between the US and the EU should become not merely what speechwriters ritually extol but a partnership demonstrated by practical events.

In real life, there is little the EU and the US can do to inhibit Russia from rebuilding a Soviet bloc if that is Vladimir Putin’s ambition; in the Ukraine, in Transnistria or wherever else he sees openings. Whether the EU can persevere with its ‘neighbourhood’ programmes in places like Belarus or whether that in itself would encourage Putin to pre-empt is an open question.

A strong trade deal between America with its oil and gas and Europe with its open trade policies would be an important confirmation of a common purpose. A weak deal would mark a failure. And there can be no doubt that Putin would use such a false start for his own ends.

Comments
  1. The reality is that nobody prevents the single-nation US from harmonising with EU standards for the 28 nations, which have a more functional regulatory environment and larger market than America. It catches you by surprise to see the US insist on exporting their chlorinated chickens or drug meat to the EU based on their 1950s food safety regulation standards.

    Also no one prevents the United States from discontinuing their protectionist policies as ‘Buy America’ or accept reasonable GI rules and dropping their patent grace period idiosyncracies etc. We don’t really care about Putin’s policies and the European side really has too few demands for changes in the US market.

    Russia spirals towards Europe, one way or the other, because Brussels is a centre of gravity for governance. Some 100 years ago, Poland did not even exist and was a part of Russia – as was Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and so forth. The gas trade ties Russia to Europe. The European Neighborhood Policy ensures swift regulatory convergence. Russia’s ambitions alienate their neighbours and you cannot build an empire on fear. Russophobia plays in Brussels’ hands and overstreches the US engagement in Europe.

    Comment by Andre on April 10, 2014 at 10:26 am
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