With all the focus on trade this election cycle, one trade deal in particular has come under the spotlight.
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel over the weekend alluded to the fact that the European Union and U.S. trade deal is on the rocks, saying that the negotiations have “failed” and that no one on either side of the agreement is willing to say it aloud.
The comments left some insiders scratching their heads and trade offices reassuring businesses negotiations are progressing.
“TTIP is very much on the front burner,” said Steve Lamar, EVP of the American Apparel and Footwear Association. “I think there is a lot of energy and momentum behind this. They’ve done 14 rounds of negotiations already, and I think that it’ll go longer than thought. That’s no surprise, though, because TPP took 20 official rounds and 20 unofficial rounds of talks.”
The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, is one of the major trade deals in the spotlight this election year, although to a lesser extent than the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The deal would tie together the E.U. and U.S. economies by reducing tariffs and freeing up many designers to source more materials from the area. The deal has been in talks between Brussels and the U.S. since 2013 and is a major agenda item for President Barack Obama.
Lamar said that the reduction of duties and standardized regulations and product safety and rules of origin would help U.S. footwear brands greatly.
For Matt Priest, president of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, he said the biggest questions facing TTIP were not whether negotiations were dead or alive, but whether they’d be wrapped this year.
“Negotiations are still making steady progress,” said Priest. “I think the majority of people are now saying we won’t have it wrapped and an ‘Atlanta moment’ like we did with TPP this administration.”
Priest and Lamar both said one of the big distractions facing TTIP was the U.S. elections, where both candidates have taken strong anti-trade stances. Additionally, industry experts say that worries about Brexit interrupting TTIP negotiations are overblown and more long-term issues.
“Trade is taking a beating this election, and it can be a distraction for negotiators,” said Priest. “We hope that we get strong leadership on trade and someone steps up after the election.”