The TTIP Agreement: An Interview with Mr Simone Crolla, Managing Director of AmCham Italy
US-EU Trade Talks

One Europe's Andrea Bonetti conducted an interview with Mr Simone Crolla regarding his views on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement. Mr Crolla is currently the Managing Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy (AmCham) and Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at Weber Shandwick Italy. Previously, he was a member of the Chamber of Deputies in the Italian Parliament and the Deputy Head of Office of the Prime Minister of Italy.

Andrea: Why should the European Union sign the TTIP agreement?

Mr Crolla: The European Commission, as an executive body of the European Union, which since 2009 with the Treaty of Lisbon has the authority to negotiate all free trade agreements for member states, should sign the TTIP because it is an unique opportunity to strengthen economic and political relations that exist between the EU and US, which represent the largest commercial partnership in the world.

The importance of an agreement of this level can be demonstrated by recalling some of the positive data that will result from the ratification and implementation of the same: a significant increase of GDP, according to analysis conducted by the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), which estimates that for the EU would reach an average annual growth of 0.48% and 0.39% for the USA. Another key point is that European exports to the United States are expected to increase by 28% (about €187 billions), while the US to the EU by 36% (about €159 billions). Especially in these times of crisis, it will be possible to achieve a boost of the average annual family income of €545 and €655, respectively for the EU and USA, from the economic growth expected as a result of the agreement.

Another remarkable reason why it is necessary to sign this treaty is the fact that, if an agreement of this type is not completed, because we don’t achieve a compromise between the parts, there is the true possibility that in other areas of the planet similar types of commercial partnerships can be successful. With this, these treaties between nations in geographical areas that do not meet our standards and rule sets, we would put ourselves in a geo-economic disadvantage.

It is worth mentioning an important previous agreement: the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, signed under the Kennedy Administration: it was the first action by the USA, after the Marshall Plan, to encourage international commerce with Europe.

Following that it’s clear that there exists a precedent to the TTIP, deployed by an American administration that had the same political orientation as the current one, and I think there are many reasons to proceed to the construction of an even more innovative and efficient partnership.

Andrea: Are there any disadvantages for the EU and Italy if they are to sign this agreement? 

Mr Crolla: No, there aren’t disadvantages if the rules governing the agreement are specific and if negotiators act with a mandate that is clearly defined by their governments and then, in the second instance, by the European Commission. The TTIP will bring results much more favorable to an economy like the Italian one that is absolutely "SMEs oriented", as is the Treaty.

There are suitable ingredients that Italy and Europe can benefit from  to ensure a fast track to do business with the US. Italian companies, mostly made up of small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), would get great benefits from this agreement,  by being able to sell to the American Main Street without tariff barriers such as  impositions, permissions, different standards and regulations. These issues are currently impossible to overcome for many Italian SMEs. In sectors such as agriculture, fashion, jewelry, along with many others, Italy will definitely benefit more than the US.

The World Expo will start in May in Milan, an extraordinary event during which, between the American pavilion and the various ones of Europe, there will be many meetings, conferences and round tables with the intention of defining the TTIP project and the policies related to it. Another important topic is related to labelling, which is very important for Italy, less so for other European countries, and scarcely recognised by the US. The Expo is an auspicious occasion for Italy to highlight the value of  an in-depth analysis about it.

A rapid closure of the agreement is being planned, drawn in line with the points of mutual benefit for Europe and the US; For us, as Italians, we must rely on the work of the Deputy Minister Calenda, which will surely play a great part in supporting the interests of the peninsula. The Obama administration needs to speed up negotiations to obtain concrete results, that can revive the US economy. The previous Congress had authorised a fast track, and now the renewed Congress, this time under Republican control, is considering how to proceed: to allow Obama to get a great historic achievement, or stall the approval of the agreement.

Thirteen millions workers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean have stable employment thanks to the US-EU trade relations; a new agreement on this scale would only enhance employment and the welfare of citizens. Politicians must be able to make an informed decision, mindful of the needs of the population. 

If I have to express my personal opinion I think it is unhistorical not to pursue a project of this magnitude. 

In the next two years 2015-2016 we have to ensure that the TTIP will be successful, it is the most propitious moment. After being hosted by Italy this year, the  World Expo will no longer be based in the West; the world's attention is now on Europe and we must treasure this opportunity.

Andrea: Italy, which is represented by the Deputy Minister Carlo Calenda, insists on the inclusion of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause in the agreement, while France and Germany are skeptical and contrary. Do you think this clause should be added?

Mr Crolla: I am convinced that this clause, following the principles of common sense and logic, should be present in this Treaty, as in any other free trade agreement that was put in place following the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. As early as the 1960s this type of clause has been included in various commercial agreements. The fact that companies can apply to an international court, when a state makes discriminatory decisions against them, is very important for proper development of free trade markets. The European Commission is developing innovative guidelines that will determinate clear rules in respect to the ISDS clause, providing greater protection to the investor, who will be motivated to invest more. Finally, this clause should be inserted in order to develop an optimisation of the relationship between state and investor, with the elimination of blocks to the free market. To do this you need a clear and detailed normative provision for access to international arbitration.

Andrea: Is European media misinforming the European citizens regarding the TTIP agreement?

Mr Crolla: There is a lot of misinformation, but also bad information: the Internet and other mass media often offer to the public negative and pessimistic news,  fostering a feeling of mistrust of the TTIP project, which is seen as a "dark" intergovernmental agreement affecting the interests of the citizens, in favor of large multinationals. This is because gloomy news definitely get more attention than the positive ones, which are  often ignored.

The reality is that the TTIP is a once in a life opportunity: 20 years ago it was useless to talk about an agreement of this kind because the Western economies were booming, but now economic growth is slow; for this reason you need something that will give economies in the West a renewed push. 

The first tip I gave to the US administration was to use in the public communications a much more simple terminology. Calling the TTIP "transatlantic pact for growth and employment", people can easily understand that there are good things behind it; that is not something abstract or obscure.

In any case, previous agreements, from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to the World Trade Organisation, have led to great benefits in the economic sector, but they didn’t have such high public visibility and exposure; so we must have confidence in the people who represent us, who work both at European and governmental level, not for big corporations and their interests, but for the welfare of our citizens. 

It is worth stressing that the TTIP is particularly important for SMEs, and not as much for corporations, which can already rely on a well-established international network. Another myth that should be debunked is that there is a risk that lower food standards will reach Europe from the US, as it is repeatedly alleged by major media; contrary to what is claimed, the goal that will be achieved is the creation, both in America and in Europe, of only the highest standards, knowledge and technologies for both parties.

I hope that as opposed to a movement against the TTIP, the media supports the treaty, recognising its historical importance, and facilitating information sharing in a bottom-up process that starts from our citizens. 

Co-author: Alessandro Strozzi

Edited by: Dina Rokic