Review: TTIP Panel Discussion at Webster

On June 29th, the Polish, Spanish, and American Embassies, in coordination with Webster University, presented a panel discussion entitled “TTIP: The Search for Facts.” The TTIP, or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, is a controversial trade agreement being negotiated between the European Union and United States.

The panel included Dr. Josef Janning, a Senior Policy Fellow for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Dr. Eric Frey, Editor of Der Standard and lecturer at Webster Vienna, Dr. Pawel Zerka, an expert from demosEUROPA – Centre for European Strategy, and Mag. Hanno Lorenz, an expert from Agenda Austria, with moderation by Dr. Samuel Schubert of Webster University. The seats were filled and the audience included H.E. Artur Lorkowski, Ambassador of Poland in Austria, H.E. Alberto Carnero Fernández, Ambassador of Spain in Austria, and Mr. Eugene Young, the Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy in Austria.

The discussion began with an overview of TTIP’s significance to Europe. Each panelist presented a ten minute commentary about the prospects and challenges of TTIP, followed by a more free-flowing conversation, and then questions and comments from the audience. Panelists asserted that within the greater context of America’s pivot to Asia, Europe risks being left behind. TTIP could represent an “economic NATO” with great strategic interests for both parties. Businesses small and large alike could benefit from reduced trade barriers, and TTIP may well be a “strategic imperative” for the West to survive.

In opposition to TTIP, more skeptical narratives abound. Public opinion, particularly in parts of Europe such as Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg, is mixed and often starkly opposed. Hurdles include fears about agricultural practices such as GMO usage in the U.S. and what Americans perceive to be excessive antibiotic usage in Europe. Numerous challenges remain to harmonize European and American practices in light of such divergent philosophies. Further criticism involves the status of investor-state dispute settlements, and the perception that well-connected large business interests will disproportionately gain from the agreement at the expense of the majority.

The discussion was followed by drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and the audience had a chance to speak with panelists in a more informal setting.