EU Parliament President Martin Schulz: Keep lawmakers involved in drafting the new EU-U.S. trade pact

President Obama’s announcement that the United States will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union is very welcome news for both sides of the Atlantic.

As I highlighted during my recent visit to Washington, D.C., EU and U.S. experts have been looking into the detail of how the European Union and the United States could lead together in advancing our economies into a prosperous and sustainable age.

I am proud that the European Parliament has been at the forefront of giving a prospective transatlantic partnership the necessary political push. If any proof was needed, these past years have revealed how remarkably intertwined our economies are, for better or for worse.

As we grappled with the issues of economic growth and unemployment in Europe, one conclusion clearly emerged to us European legislators: that a comprehensive economic partnership with the U.S. has the power to release much potential for two huge economies emerging from crisis.

Many studies have clearly shown that further reduced tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and greater harmonization of standards and regulation, would further stimulate the EU and U.S. economies and lead to growth. At the European Parliament, we think that this is the way to go, and we are glad that President Obama also sees this as a priority.

On Tuesday night, we saw President Obama decidedly throwing all his weight behind a prospective far-reaching EU-U.S. deal that — though technically challenging — can go a long way to create jobs for Americans and Europeans alike. “Trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs,” the president said.

The European Parliament and President Obama share a similar vision for sustainable growth by reducing tarrifs and harmonising standards through a comprehensive trade and investment agreement. 

In the era of globalization, we need to cooperate more than ever to defend our democratic and societal model. This new trade and investment deal will help us to achieve that for our respective peoples.

President Obama’s State of the Union speech built on the resolve that emerged in his inaugural address a few weeks earlier. The president articulated America’s most pressing internal policies — from education to healthcare reform, to immigration and gun violence — by naming inidividual citizens who, through living their daily lives dutifully, had become living symbols of what it means to be an American.

The president defined the concept of citizenship as capturing the enduring idea that the United States only works when certain obligations to one another and to future generations are accepted. He clothed his discourse in terms of rights that are “wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.”

In this respect, President Obama links the meaning of citizenship with freedom and the struggle for universal rights. This is indeed where the commonalities between the challenges facing Europe and Americabecome self-evident. The president’s words tell me that, like us Europeans, Americans believe that the meaning of citizenship goes beyond whether one is economically productive; instead, citizenship is linked with notions of equality, social justice, the right to live in a safe physical environment and to benefit from a social safety net.

The underlying political rational guiding President Obama’s domestic policies is the belief in the need for collective action. He affirmed on Tuesday night that while it encourages free enterprise and rewards individual initiative, government should work “on behalf of the many, and not just the few.”

As we know too well in Europe, collective governance is necessary to deliver change effectively. Indeed, the fight against climate change requires collective action that extends beyond borders. President Obama can rest assured he will find in the European Union an experienced partner as he steps up the fight against climate change.

Having been a global leader in fighting climate change for the past decades, we believe that limiting carbon emissions and developing the technology and attitudes that will ensure a sustainable relationship with our world, are indeed possible. So is fighting world poverty.

As with a comprehensive EU-U.S. trade deal, however, delivering change requires bold leaders who can show the way. Forging an EU-U.S. trade partnership will not only involve lengthy talks at executive level but will require a very close scrutiny and approval by the European Parliament and the Congress of the United States. An ambitious, new generation agreement can only be achieved if the European Parliament — which will be asked to give its consent to the final deal — is closely consulted and involved from the outset of the negotiations. 

Indeed, no agreement can be complete without the democratic dimension; input from elected representatives is necessary because a transatlantic trade partnership is above all about people. It will require us to muster widespread political support in the European Parliament. I am sure Republicans and Democrats in Congress will also have a strong interest to work together to push for best interest of the United States.

Martin Schulz is president of the European Union Parliament