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Joining Hands Across the Ocean: Understanding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

What if America and Europe suddenly became best friends? Sounds unlikely? Well, it might actually happen. The common ground? Trade. It seems like trade is the universal language. No matter what differences two countries share, trade seems to resolve all conflicts. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) represents a fundamental shift in how the European Union and the United States conducts business. 

How Europe Benefits 

An independent report suggests that an agreement between the U.S. and Europe might result in millions of euros of savings to companies as well as hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Every year, an average European household would gain an additional €545, as the economy would be lifted 0.05 per cent of GDP. The added economic growth adds to the economy as a whole, creating increased demand and supply without having to increase government spending or borrowing - everyone wins. 

How The U.S. Benefits 

The U.S. benefits from the reduction in trade costs associated with imports. For example, when a car is manufactured in Europe, it goes through various safety tests. Those tests are shockingly similar to those used in the U.S. Yet, cars imported from Europe are required to go through additional safety testing - testing that's often already been done. These sorts of redundancies could be reduced or eliminated. 

It would also make life easier for smaller companies, like ISOStainless.com, that can't afford the same costs that multinational corporations can.

The Problems 

There are obvious differences in the European and American markets. For starters, Europe has very different safety standards for drugs, and they're also finicky about their agriculture - especially when it comes to GMO foods. Americans, on the other hand, have tight - irrational - regulations on food safety as well as drug distribution. As for agriculture, it's a cornucopia of GMO and industrialized foods that would never pass muster in any of the European countries. 

Plus, American politicians love carve-outs for domestic shipping and transport firms. Finally, the NSA debacle might complicate discussions about data-protection standards. Political leaders have really tried to keep the scope of talks as wide as possible, and leave room for negotiations and compromise, but this strategy has already broken down. 

France outright refused to support giving a mandate to EU negotiators until it had secured protection for what it called "cultural diversity." In other words, France wanted subsidies to the French film industry. 

The Advisory Group 

For an agreement of this caliber to work, there needs to be an advisory group. The purpose of the group is to provide the EU negotiating team with advice on certain aspects of TTIP. For example, it will provide informal and temporary advice. Fourteen individuals will represent balanced interests of a wide range of stakeholders, and will do so on a voluntary basis - no salary or monetary compensation of any kind will be paid. Finally, the group will operate in-line with standard Commission rules on expert groups. 

Specifically, they will be chaired by the Commission, meetings will be help on Commission premises, the Commission will handle the groups' preparation of documents, organize meetings, draft minutes, etc. The Commission will also appoint a representative that can invite experts with specific knowledge in a subject on the agenda in question. 

Transparency of the entire process in maintained by the Commission. It will publish all individual groups' relevant documents like agendas, minutes from the meetings, and participants' submissions. 

All of this is expected to help make the process fair, objective, and productive. While there are some critics of the TTIP, overall, there seems to be widespread support for this initiative.