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25 April 2017
Four words: ‘don’t do it, Europe.’
The Trump administration this week signalled its' interest in defrosting the ice-cold TTIP negotiations, which have been put permanently on hold since President Trump upended the US trade agenda.
Through the election campaign, Trump was silent on TTIP but a vocal opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which he immediately cancelled on entering office. His flirtations with protectionism, support for Brexit, a renegotiation of NAFTA with Canada and Mexico, and an obsession with China and Germany’s trade surpluses with the US, have opened up a Pandora's box of issues that Europe and other allies are now attempting to grapple with.
So it is no surprise that Angela Merkel reacted with a sigh of relief at the news that the US administration is considering reopening the TTIP talks. She said that she felt “very reassured” that the United States would consider negotiations with the EU to strike a free trade deal, according to Politico.
But like all of us, Angela Merkel should feel anything but reassured by the prospect of a trade deal with President Trump. Facing the lowest approval ratings of any new US president in modern times, and in the midst of make-or-break elections across Europe, tying ourselves to the “Grabber-in-Chief” would be nothing short of an act of self-harm.
A trade deal that, if we are to believe the PR of proponents, is supposed to promote “shared values” between partners, is likely to make the mass mobilisation against TTIP during the Obama administration, look like a friendly walk in the park!
Trump is toxic. A Trumped-up TTIP would be explosive.
It is hard to admit failure, especially when so many special business interests converge on a project like TTIP. But it is important to remember that TTIP was not knocked unconscious by President Trump, nor will he alone be able to revive it.
Civil society organised, mobilised and crushed the EU-US deal since negotiations were launched in 2013. The drip-effect of leaks, lack of transparency, proposals for private corporate courts, or unaccountable bodies to screen laws, broke public trust and cracked the dogma of “jobs and growth” to expose what was really behind the negotiations.
Aside from a small faction who co-opted the campaign for their own nationalistic reasons, the wide anti-TTIP movement was a transnational, pro-European, progressive campaign, fuelled by social and environmental NGOs that know a bad deal when they see it.
With confidence in the EU project wavering, Europe doesn’t need fuel to the fire. Trump’s toxic agenda would be political dynamite in any renewed TTIP talks. And be assured, it is more likely than not to blow up in our faces.