Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 10.53.54Yesterday is was David Cameron at the G8 summit, claiming that a US-EU trade deal (known as TTIP) could create 2 million jobs. The European Commission meanwhile has been using the figure of €545 per person benefit of a deal (quoted by TUC here, and mentioned by @SkaKeller at an event in Brussels yesterday).

Both figures are absurd. We are at the start of an immensely complicated process to conclude a trade deal between the EU and the US. While there might be plenty of political will to conclude a deal overall, the devil will be in the detail. What will, and will not, be part of any such deal? Many European countries, led by France, want audio-visual to not be included (the so-called exception culturelle), while politicians of various colours argue for the exclusion of anything touching on GMOs, animal hormones, data protection, and financial services.

If all of these exceptions actually happen then TTIP is not going to be worth 2 million jobs (even if that figure stands up to scrutiny – which I doubt).

Also the danger is that the more pro-TTIP politicians like Cameron over-hype the need for a deal, so opponents will become suspicious, and will try to torpedo the whole thing. This is exactly what happened with ACTA – both benefits and dangers were over-sold, positions became entrenched, and the whole thing fell apart. No deal was the outcome, rather than a more minimal, more pragmatic deal.

It would be only sensible to hope that a few people would have learnt from ACTA, but looking at the TTIP debate so far it looks like they have not.

[Note: my thinking for this blog post was started thanks to an event run by VoteWatchEurope in Brussels yesterday, looking at EP voting behaviour on trade. The slides from that event, as a PDF, are here.]


  1. Jon, thanks for bringing this up. Anytime grand numbers are floated as easily as this, we have to remain skeptical. Have previous FTAs created millions of jobs? Hm, look at levels of unemployment around the EU and I would doubt. Not to say they didn’t, but it’s massively difficult to substantiate any numbers, let alone those that go into millions. So, it’s propaganda.

    But to the more crucial point. Yes, creating jobs is brilliant – but who will lose jobs should also not be neglected, as well as what are the wider social costs? I haven’t seen any study on this. I remain to be convinced especially on one premise: it is normally those at the lower income levels that suffer. If there are counterbalancing measures, that is potentially OK, but very often FTAs have contributed to reallocation of wealth within societies that has then persisted over time. To put it bluntly: not everyone will see those EUR 545, but some will see thousands. Do we prefer 1.000 people to get super benefits, while 100.000 suffer modest losses? How is the new “wealth” distributed?

  2. Excellent with a bit of perspective, and happy to see the link to the VoteWatchEurope event. European Parliament has a very important role in what is to come, which correctly is a “immensely complicated process”, which only will be concluded after the EP elections next year or even the next ones… So important to keep an eye on the past and future MEP’s.
    ** perhaps I’m slightly biased as very trade law interested and also Danish MEP candidate**

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