These may appear to be economic issues but, as Zoellick reminds us, it is mostly about politics when the respective parliaments get involved and the ensuing trade-offs inflict pain on their constituents and supporters.
While there may be enthusiasm in business circles and the policy community, the American public sentiment on trade remains very skeptical. By one typical poll, 63 percent of the respondents declared trade “bad” because it results in the loss of jobs and lower wages. Only 30 percent believed that it reduces prices and expands choices for consumers. The fundamental belief is that trade agreements result in American jobs being transferred to other countries.
The TTIP will be a major challenge for both the U.S. and EU. The U.S., for its part, is already heavily involved in trade negotiations with nine Asian countries (ultimately 11, if Japan and South Korea are included), and at the moment the U.S. chief negotiator is the U.S. trade representative, an unfilled position in the Obama administration. On the EU side, there are multiple public agencies that must be consulted, which all but guarantee years of negotiations.
Hopefully this time the trade agreement will be more about economics and less about politics!
Don Bonker, executive director at APCO Worldwide, is a former congressman and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Trade. Cliff Stearns, who currently works at APCO Worldwide, is a former congressman and former chairman of the TransAtlantic Dialogue with EU.