Bipartisan cooperation is key to US-EU transatlantic trade

The United States and the European Union account for nearly half the global economy and nearly one-third of total world trade.  Forty-five U.S. states have a greater balance of trade with Europe than with any other region of the world.  For U.S. exports to Europe, some $6 billion in annual tariffs will be on the table for elimination.
 
Beyond tariffs, TTIP will seek to eliminate non-tariff barriers, and through across-the-board regulatory convergence and mutual recognition, realign rules that unnecessarily burden our trade.  A good example is the auto industry.  Does anyone really believe that European-built automobiles are more dangerous or more harmful to the environment than their American cousins?  Nonetheless, differences in safety and environmental rules cost the industry (read: the consumer) $4.5 -$7.5 billion annually.
 

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Absent an agreement, transatlantic differences on how to manage privacy issues, cross-border data flows and financial services will increasingly disrupt trade, inconvenience consumers and have a significant economic cost. A recent EU-commissioned study shows that a broad trade pact could boost EU economic output by $159 billion and the U.S. economy by $127 billion.
 
In short, this is big.  It has the potential to reshape the world by its example and firmly establish western values in the international trading system.  Or it could fail spectacularly.
 
Success depends on recognition that this trade negotiation must be managed differently than those previously.  In negotiating trade agreements, a President traditionally wants one thing from Congress:  acquiescence.  Congress has already given a green light to the negotiations.  In the future, it will need to renew “fast track” trade promotion authority that expired in 2007.  And at the end of the process – which will likely take 2-3 years – Congress will be required to approve the agreement.
 
Historically during the course of negotiations, the White House Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) would periodically update select Members of Congress – the House Ways & Means and Senate Finance Committees and their trade subcommittees.  In order to maintain maximum maneuvering room, there is always a reluctance to share details on negotiating positions with anyone else on Capitol Hill or beyond.
 
In the case of TTIP, this narrow approach must be replaced by a broad, interconnected, and coordinated effort starting immediately. USTR will need OMB’s help corralling myriad Administration departments and agencies in this complex undertaking.  The independent regulatory agencies – such as the Federal Trade Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission – are not subject to the President’s direction.  In Congress, many Members from committees without a trade focus will have to engage with the independent regulatory agencies, counterparts in the European Commission and senior officials in Europe. They will have to engage labor unions, environmentalists and other groups.
 
In the United States, a major goal for EU negotiators will be eliminating barriers to government procurement contracts in states that often seek to protect their local vendors and unfairly curb foreign competition.  Cajoling states and localities to do away with those barriers will add a new and challenging dimension to this negotiation, and one in which Washington must participate.
 
It’s a daunting challenge, but both the U.S. and EU are serious about TTIP’s success.  Europe is in economic decline and this is its last best chance to reverse the trend.  President Obama knows his remaining agenda won’t get through a restive Congress piecemeal, so he likely sees TTIP as a vehicle for results he can’t otherwise win.  Business groups on both continents are the strongest boosters.  Even environmentalists, labor leaders and consumer advocates – usually opponents of trade agreements – see the potential for gains.  And new USTR Michael Froman is widely respected on both sides of the aisle, committed to TTIP’s success, and has the ear of the President.
 
All this will not be enough without bipartisan teamwork in Washington. The President will need to continue to work not only with EU and other European officials, but perhaps most importantly, he will need the active support of Congress as a whole.  This is one area where true bipartisan cooperation in Congress and between the legislative and executive branches will be absolutely required in order to achieve success.
 
Peckham is a senior policy expert on international trade and foreign relations, having served as deputy assistant secretary of State for Legislative Affairs under President George H.W. Bush and as national security advisor to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He is now a managing director with Prime Policy Group in Washington, D.C.