Should Congress Reconsider TTIP? | Commentary
Recently there has been discussion over whether the United States should enter into a free trade agreement with the European Union known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. There are several major issues with TTIP that make it not in the interest of the United States to enter into the agreement.
One major issue is non-tariff barriers to free trade that are not addressed by TTIP. In the European Union there are certain classes of product known as Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication. One example of a PDO is Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, which legally can be made only in a certain region of northern Italy. Currently, American dairy farmers are not allowed to sell Parmesan cheese in the European Union because the name sounds too similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano. In all of the European Union’s trade agreements, PDO and PGI protection has been extended to include the products in the other countries who are party to such agreement and the European Union has stated its intent to include that in TTIP under the guise of “intellectual property rights.”
There are many examples of how arbitrary and nonsensical the designation process is. Newcastle Ale had to request that its PDO status be revoked so it could move its factory just across a river. Stilton cheese is not allowed to be made in the English village of Stilton from which it derives its name, but only in three neighboring villages. Feta cheese is allowed to be produced only in Greece, but not in Cyprus or other areas where ethnic Greeks may be living.
Another major issue with TTIP is that automatically having a free trade agreement with the United States would provide a major incentive for more countries to join the European Union. The European Union has increasingly become more of a centralized government over its member states, especially since the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. In some areas (such as rules regarding the standardization of driving licenses) the European Union government has more control over its member states than the United States federal government has over US states.
Encouraging further expansion of the European Union is bad for the people of Europe, as the European Union has been eroding the sovereignty of its member states. The European Union has been imposing many absurd and burdensome regulations. One regulation requires all projects that receive funding from the European Regional Development Fund to fly the flag of the European Union. Another regulation states that prepackaged products are allowed to be sold only in certain sized packages, and packages that deviate from the proscribed size dimensions are prohibited from sale.
What also needs to be considered is not only what these regulations are, but how they are established. In the United States, the heads of the federal executive agencies, which are responsible for establishing regulatory policies, are nominated by an elected president and confirmed by elected senators. The European Union has no such accountability mechanism.
Another issue that needs to be considered is discriminatory trade policies imposed by the European Union. In May 2014, the European Union put in place a ban on the import of poultry and eggs raised by Jews in Judea and Samaria, but still permits import of poultry and eggs raised by Arabs in that same region. The European Union has also been considering implementation of discriminatory meat labeling policies where meat products slaughtered using religious methods are required to label the method, but meat products slaughtered using other methods are not.
Supporting TTIP may impact the proposed referendum on United Kingdom membership of the European Union that is planned for 2015, skewing the outcome in favor of maintaining membership in the European Union. Instead, the United States should seek to establish a free trade agreement with a free and independent Britain. This will encourage other European Union member states to leave the European Union as well and will hopefully serve as a catalyst for the dissolution of the European Union. It is not in the strategic interests of the United States, nor in the interests of the people of Europe, for the European Union to become a more centralized institution.
Zachary Leshin is a legislative assistant for Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas. The views stated here do not represent the views of the congressman.