Magazine article New Internationalist

Tipping the TTIP

Magazine article New Internationalist

Tipping the TTIP

Article excerpt

What is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)?

Probably the biggest global trade deal since the conclusion of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements in the early 1990s. It's intended to be an agreement between the European Union (EU) and the US covering everything that has to do with trade. In modern-day life, trade is about almost any kind of money transaction, so it covers an enormous area.

It's quite hard to find any references to banks and the financial sector in the negotiations. How significant are they?

For the EU they're extremely important. On that particular point the negotiations are at a bit of a deadlock. The EU is keen on discussing financial regulation: many big European banks are annoyed with what they consider very tough US regulation, so they're trying to use TTIP to roll that back.

I would not say that financial reform in the US has been brilliant since the financial crisis. But it has been more ambitious and more effective than on the European side, in terms of capital requirements and the like. So those differences now play out at the TTIP negotiations.

The US administration has been under immense pressure from Wall Street and the financial lobby to roll back the key pieces of legislation since the financial crisis, mainly the Dodd-Frank [Reform and Consumer Protection] Act. It sees the Europeans as lending a hand to the Wall Street banks, which it is not inclined to do - at the moment. But you never know; the EU might put something juicy on the table for the Americans. Their opposition to negotiations on finance might then fade away.

How does the financial lobby operate?

Last year we estimated the number of people working for the financial lobby in Brussels. The number is 1,700 - a very conservative estimate. That's a tremendous force. The tradition of the European Commission is that whenever it considers something on finance it will always consult widely with people from the financial lobby, before it even tables a proposal. So it should come as no surprise that the Commission pushes lobbyists' aims at the TTIP negotiations.

There are two main lobby groups. There's Deutsche Bank from Germany and BNP Paribas from France. But the single most powerful group is the City of London, in its various shapes - and you would have to include the big Wall Street banks with them as well. …

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