The EU and the US launched negotiations for a transatlantic free trade area – a monumental undertaking.
In 2013, the EU achieved one of its most ambitious goals of recent times with the launch of negotiations for a transatlantic free trade area, formally called TTIP. The groundwork had been laid for this initiative in 2012 with the High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth and was launched when President Barack Obama adopted it in his State of the Union address in January 2013. The EU had backed the initiative earlier. TTIP may be the most monumental undertaking by the alliance since NATO enlargement in the 1990s. It promises to boost US and European GDP by 1 percent a year. Perhaps even more importantly, a comprehensive agreement could set new standards in global trade, provide an impetus for the reinvigoration of multilateral trade talks if it is designed as an open agreement (like the EU–US Telecommunications Agreement, which others later joined and which defined the worldwide standard), and reaffirm the relevance and centrality of the transatlantic alliance in the 21st century. It would also help counteract the perception of a decline of Europe and the West.
Europeans – particularly Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK – invested considerable time in selling the agreement in the US, both as a measure to increase economic growth and as a strategic initiative. France insisted on an exemption for its cultural sector but this has not yet spread to other sectors and three rounds of negotiations had been completed by the end of the year. Although the dispute over the Edward Snowden revelations on the NSA did not derail the talks, that possibility remains. In particular, the European Parliament might link data protection to TTIP. Ratification in the US also remains difficult – Obama has not yet received Trade Promotion Authority, which is practically a necessity for ratification. Europeans will be closely monitoring the fate of the TPP, which is much further along in the process. If that is ratified, it will increase the chances of getting TTIP through Congress.