The Cable

Obama Can Fast Track the Asian Trade Deal. He Can Do the Same With Europe.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama finally won the authority to fast track the massive trade bill with Asia. He can also quickly push through a second trade deal with Europe. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, is a trade deal currently being negotiated between the United States and the European Union. Talks started ...

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On Wednesday, President Barack Obama finally won the authority to fast track the massive trade bill with Asia. He can also quickly push through a second trade deal with Europe.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, is a trade deal currently being negotiated between the United States and the European Union. Talks started in 2013, and are still ongoing. The goal of the agreement is to eliminate obstacles to selling American products in the European market, and vice versa, essentially creating an American-European free trade zone.

TTIP is small in comparison to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has been the focus of the current fight over whether the president should have the ability to speed up trade bills. And its impact would be larger in Europe than in the States. According to the European Commission, the agreement would add $134 billion to Europe’s GDP, compared to $106 billion for the United States.

But the White House and European Union leaders say the deal is critical to cementing financial and diplomatic ties between the United States and Europe. It also would bind Europe’s and America’s financial futures together at a time when Russia is trying to sunder the European market.

It’s no coincidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin hates the deal. Leaked documents show one of its goals is to lessen Europe’s dependence on Russian gas — a longtime goal of leaders in both Brussels and Washington.

And while European leaders, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are proponents of the deal, it’s less popular among lower level politicians.  On June 10, members of the European parliament were due to issue a clear outline of what should be negotiated in the agreement, as well as a timeline for when it would be completed. They delayed it because of fights over what negotiators should deliver and amid concerns it wouldn’t benefit European workers.

Europe’s burgeoning far-right is also opposed to the deal. In France, the leader of France’s National Front party, Marine Le Pen, launched a media blitz against TTIP last month, arguing TTIP would hurt the French economy.

Speaking at an event sponsored by Foreign Policy on Thursday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker acknowledged the lack of support among some politicians in Europe. She said the administration was working to build enthusiasm for the deal.

Stateside, opponents of the TPP are still on the fence about the European trade deal. The AFL-CIO says the deal could be good for American workers, if it includes worker protections.

European leaders said in late 2014 that they wanted the deal to be done by the end of 2015. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman won’t give a timetable for getting it done.

“We have been making steady progress, round after round, with the European Union on outstanding issues,” Froman said at the FP-sponsored forum. “We have a way to go.”

“There’s no reason we can’t get this done relatively quickly.”

“There are serious barriers to us selling our products in Europe. We’re working to get the negotiation moving at a more rapid pace,” Pritzker added.

“We want to try to get that done during this administration.”

Photo Credit: Michael Kappeler/Getty Images

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