Obama, Merkel spruik benefits of free trade deal

Mr Obama says he’s determined to finalise the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership this year.

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At the world’s largest industrial technology trade fair, hundreds of companies competed to promote their goods and services.

And US President Barack Obama was keen to do some spruiking of his own, pushing the US-European free trade agreement.

“And here in Hanover-Messe you will see examples of American growth and ingenuity, including a full 3D-printed electric car. Angela, maybe you and I can go driving? I’ll have to ask the Secret Service, but …”

The United States and the European Union have been negotiating the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Industrial Pact, known as the TTIP, since 2013.

Supporters hope the talks will gain momentum after the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal between Pacific Rim nations and the U-S was signed earlier this year in February.

Officials estimate the TTIP would add 100 billion dollars annually to the economies on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

But for the hundreds of protesters marching outside the trade fair venue, the concern is for the impact on jobs and working conditions.

Protest organiser Christoph Bautz says the deal would only help big business.

“The vast majority of citizens don’t want deal, they see that the room for manoeuvre in the communes will be reduced, that consumer’s rights will be weakened and that the big companies will get right to sue – that weakens society, it undermines our civil rights and it strengthens the big companies, and that is what this meeting is about – Barack Obama and Angela Merkel and industry bosses are sitting behind closed doors mumbling together and that is meeting resistance from the people.”

A recent survey, conducted by YouGov for the Bertelsmann Foundation, found the deal is unpopular in both the US and Germany – with support declining 30 per cent in two years to below 20 per cent.*

Mr Obama says critics have nothing to fear, saying the deal would save jobs and boost growth.

“And I want to be clear about this: TTIP will not lower standards. It will raise standards even higher. High labour standards to protect workers. High standards to protect consumers and give them more choices. High standards to protect the environment.”

Germany’s government has pushed the deal, saying it would give small and mid-sized companies a better chance at competing on the world market, while reducing bureaucracy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she’s confident the agreement could be sealed this year.

“I am firmly convinced that if we do it right, if we use the time we have, if we repeatedly say to people that standards will not be lowered but will stay the same or be raised; if we say that with this agreement we can shape globalisation with regards to the environment, society and consumer protection, instead of running to catch up because others are ahead – if we do that together, and I ask the business people here to do so – then we can achieve a great success this year.”

 

*Support in the US has fallen from 53 per cent in 2014 to 18 per cent today, while Germans in favour of the deal have dropped from 55 per cent two years ago to just 17 per cent in 2016.