The TTIP is not just all about trade
TTIP forces Europeans to position themselves more clearly on the world stage.
A free trade treaty is currently being negotiated between the United States and the European Union. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has aroused some considerable controversy. Moreover concerns in its regard persist, not least ethical ones. The COMECE bishops were keen to learn more about TTIP. They wanted to be in a position to weigh up the economic impact of the treaty and give consideration to its ethical implications. For that reason the autumn plenary, held in Brussels on 12 – 13 November, was devoted largely to the TTIP.
The morning of the plenary’s first day was devoted to information gathering. The EU Chief Negotiator on the TTIP, Mr. Garcia Bercero, briefed the bishops at some length on the contents of the negotiations, highlighted some of their salient features, alluded to issues not covered (e.g. the designation of origin) and traced the path of the negotiations as they move forward. The Belgian economist, Pierre Defraigne, Executive Director of the Madariaga/College of Europe Foundation, outlined the reservations he held regarding the TTIP and shared his doubts about its potential to promote economic growth and boost employment within the EU. Patrick O’Sullivan, Professor of Business Ethics at Grenoble, voiced caution in regard to current economic indicators, suggesting they did not adequately reflect authentic human growth.
The economic opportunities that the TTIP promised to bring on both sides of the Atlantic were recalled by Brian McFeeters, economic counsellor at the Mission of the united States to the EU. The final in-put was contributed by Father Joseph Komakoma, General Secretary of the SECAM, who brought an African perspective on the TTIP and articulated the concerns of Africa’s bishops.
From the subsequent discussions among the bishops, with the Secretariat team responding to specific questions in their areas of expertise, it emerged that they felt TTIP raised awkward questions about our European identity and our continent’s position in the world. It was just not all about trade. In some senses the TTIP talks hold up a mirror to Europe itself, force it to question the role it desires to play on the world stage and asks it to examine its conscience regarding its own targets in the areas of sustainable trade and monetary policies into what is still a very uncertain future.
The bishops were also of the view that the Church must be an advocate for the weakest and poorest in both Europe and the wider world, especially in areas where they might be adversely affected by the TTIP. It is to be hoped that a position paper on the TTIP will soon be produced in the name of the COMECE bishops. This paper will primarily be addressed to the MEP’s, who will have the final say on the TTIP, but a wider audience too will be thereby acquainted with the ethical and social justice issues this free-trade arrangement promises to raise.
Patrick H. Daly