Oh TTIP. That great hope to rescue the transatlantic alliance. Or that scary fear of deregulation. Or both. Or neither?
Juncker is worried, apparently. The Commission is putting pressure on the USA, supposedly. New Austrian President Van Der Bellen says he is against it. Merkel and Obama say they are saving it. Fekl and the French government can’t seem to quite make up their minds about it. Meanwhile Greenpeace publishes TTIP leaks, which the Commission calls a storm in a teacup. Meanwhile the Commission cannot any longer put a number of the economic benefits of it, so we end up talking about tactics and the politics of it instead.
We need a bit of sense here. It looks to me like the Commission (and the EU Member States) have learnt the lesson of the ACTA – little attention to the deal, and then all of a suddent it was rejected by the European Parliament. With regard to TTIP there is so much attention to the issue on all sides that it seems excessive. However so much energy and time has been invested in it so as to make some sort of TTIP almost inevitable – for nothing to now emerge looks like a major failure of the transatlantic alliance. The tactics of TTIP opponents therefore need to be two-pronged – to maintain the argument against TTIP per se, if that is indeed the judged to be the right approach. But beyond that, I have come to the conclusion that a salami slicing tactic is the right approach – take TTIP apart, piece by piece, until the pernicious things have been removed from it. TTIP leaks is therefore really helpful in that regard – the more that is publicly known about the nature of the deal the more it can be scrutinised, analysed, and – ultimately – weakened. And then strike a deal at the end of the day as a face saving measure.
Some cool reflection is also going to be needed about the time frame. Forget 2016 (there’s a US election, and we don’t know what is going to happen in the UK’s referendum). Forget 2017 (there’s a German and a French election). Sign it in 2018 as a kind of measly crowning achievement of Juncker’s Commission Presidency. By then it ought to be so gutted of content and meaning so as to be harmless.