However, while President Obama and European politicians have agreed on where to start, this is far from a done deal. In fact, the road ahead already looks long and bumpy. It will require translating the business and political cultures on each side of the Atlantic. TTIP will not happen by immaculate conception. It’s going to be hard work.
In particular, for TTIP to succeed, Germany, as the economic engine of Europe, must be at the forefront, seizing this opportunity -- not because it may or may not be good for other Europeans or Americans, but rather because it’s in Germany’s own vital interest. Similarly, U.S. politicians will only approve an agreement if it is America’s own vital interest and in the interests of U.S. elected representatives and their constituencies—namely, voters.
Many Europeans may be nervous about the idea of engaging in U.S. public discourse, whether it’s because they might think they don’t understand the culture, or they might think that politics in the U.S. is just about adding up campaign contributions.
There are no better spokespeople for the position that TTIP can create mutually beneficial growth and jobs than the European businesses that would invest in the U.S., and German businesses are the natural leaders of that group
Here’s a quick roadmap for what those business leaders will need to do to successfully engage American policymakers.
First and foremost, this deal is all about the Congress. Yes, while the president and his trade representative do the actual negotiating, Congress has to approve any deal for it to take effect. And when it comes to Congress, “you have to have the votes.” That means 60 votes in the Senate and 218 votes in the House of Representatives.
The vote count in Congress on a trade deal isn’t ultimately driven by party affiliation, but by the level of broad geographic support—and America is a big and diverse place. To be viable, any deal must be seen as not only helping basic industry, both hi-tech and low-tech, but also the farmers and ranchers and especially service providers who now make up the majority of the American economy.
Second, believe it or not, Congress listens to the American public. Congress is hypersensitive to public opinion, and public opinion is informed, shaped, and molded via the media, the “4th Estate” of American-style democracy. It will be vitally important that the American populace be kept well informed of what they stand to gain from the TTIP. Rest assured, the proponents of economic isolationism won’t be silent in telling their side of the story.
This is where German business, much more than any politicians or diplomats, must play a role. No American politician will vote for a U.S.-EU trade agreement because a foreign diplomat or a politician walks into their office and asks them to. They will vote for a trade agreement if they can visualize that a factory in their district will expand or more of their constituents will have jobs if TTIP is approved. The most credible spokesperson for a message about expanding investments, factories, and jobs is the German business leader who wants to make those investments, and in so many cases, already does.
This is a story that is waiting to be told. It is well grounded in recent successes and longstanding goodwill. For example, Volkswagen reported North American deliveries up 15 percent in the first quarter of 2013, and over half of those cars were made in the US. From BMW to Bosch to Siemens, the list of deep German-U.S. business ties goes on and on.
In the end, TTIP is about building our shared values and shared interests into a deeper and more beneficial partnership—one that will create much needed growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Achieving that partnership will require European business to become more comfortable with engaging in the political process on both sides of the Atlantic.
Smith served as chief of staff at the U.S. Treasury Department and the House Ways and Means Committee, and is a strategic adviser to Prism Public Affairs. Soren Dayton worked for a member of the House International Relations Committee and is a senior vice president at Prism.