Trade has been in the news lately, and it’s as controversial as ever. With Congress’s recent granting of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA, which allows Congress to vote yes or no on a final negotiated agreement but without adding any amendments) to President Obama, negotiators have been hard at work finalizing the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed free trade agreement between the US and many Pacific Rim nations, as well as making progress on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), which would create a free trade area between the world’s two largest economies, the United States and the European Union. T-TIP has been controversial on both sides of the Atlantic. Many Europeans worry about its impact on their agriculture and labor and environmental standards; many Americans worry about lost jobs, which are associated with free trade agreements like NAFTA, as well as increased regulation on small businesses.
In order to help both Europeans and Americans explore some of the impacts, both positive and negative, of trade, the U.S. Mission to the EU and Meridian have worked together on a series of study tours over the past year for European business and labor leaders, consumer protection specialists, agricultural officials and farmers, and politicians. While delegates have been able to meet policymakers in DC, the highlight of every study tour were exchanges with American business and labor leaders, farmers, and entrepreneurs in places like Huntsville, Alabama, and Columbia, South Carolina. While not everyone agreed on what will ultimately be the best outcome, both European delegates and their American hosts came away with a better sense of the potential importance of the T-TIP and a better understand of the different perspectives on each side.
Recently, USEU Cultural Affairs Officer Elizabeth Martin-Shukrun, who worked with Meridian on a study tour for European Parliament staffers of all political stripes, wrote about their impressions of T-TIP in a visit to the American South in Columbia, South Carolina, and Raleigh, North Carolina, where the impact of trade and investment by European companies like BMW has been huge, but where many other jobs, in industries like textiles and furniture-making, have disappeared. You can read Elizabeth’s entry on USEU’s blog here.