US, EU and trade

TPA, TPP, AGOA, and TESA are just a few of the trade policy acronyms we’ve heard on Capitol Hill lately, but this week, the trade community is focusing on yet another acronym that could have an enormous benefit for both companies and consumers: TTIP, or the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership.

Trade negotiators from the United States and European Union are currently meeting in New York City for the ninth round of TTIP negotiations in hopes of strengthening the important partnership between the United States and Europe, which already supports 13 million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.

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While the U.S.-EU relationship is already quite strong, many obstacles to trade remain in place.

This is why our organizations—representing American and European brands, retailers, and importers in a variety of industries, including the fashion industry—urge the negotiation of an ambitious, high-standard agreement that recognizes the way companies do business in the 21st century. This means that the agreement should include the elimination of all tariffs as well as the reduction and harmonization of product-related regulations.

For companies, the benefits are clear. The United States and European Union have higher tariffs and more restrictive practices on textile, leather, and fashion products than most consumer goods. By eliminating tariffs and reducing technical barriers, companies would experience greater efficiencies and reduced costs of doing business, allowing them to sell more products globally, expand their operations, and create more high quality jobs, including design, compliance, retail, and marketing jobs in the fashion industry.

Such an agreement would also benefit the consumers those companies serve. Studies show an ambitious agreement could create as many as 750,000 new jobs in the United States, while the expansion of transatlantic commerce would add approximately €95 billion to the United States’ economy and approximately €119 billion to Europe’s economy and each year. Families will reap the benefits, as the average American household could gain approximately $865 annually while European households could gain approximately $720 annually.

An ambitious agreement would also have a positive impact on global trade. By instituting uniform, high-standard regulations on everything from product labeling and testing, to sustainability and safety in the global value chain, the United States and Europe could set the global standard. TTIP would serve as a model for future trade agreements when other nations see the widespread benefits of an ambitious elimination of tariffs and reduction of trade barriers—as well as the cost savings and efficiencies that result when they need to follow only one set of regulations for exporting to the United States and Europe.

We strongly urge the negotiators to take a fresh look at the proposals, and take a new, 21st-century approach to trade policy.

If they do, TTIP won’t just be another acronym—but will be a landmark agreement that changes the future of business and trade for the better.

Hughes is president of the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA); Ewert is director general of the Foreign Trade Association (FTA) in Brussels.