20 december 2014, ttip of the iceberg

One of the many prongs of the european populist uprising (see 26 may 2014, eurosclerosis) is protest against globalsation, the cutting edge of which is ttip: the transatlantic trade and investment partnership. The basis of this treaty is relatively simple: easier trade between nations creates efficiency and raises productivity, so increasing gdp. As europe and the us are still the world's biggest trading blocs, and involved in a majority of world trade, easing trade restrictions would help both, raising eu gdp by around 0.4%. Most restrictions are simply down to different standards and testing regimes. Harmonisation would make things both cheaper and, in theory, better, as the best method should win out. For europe there's a bigger game, in holding back the tide of the adage that the mediterranean is the sea of the past, the atlantic of the present and the pacific of the future. If the eu and the us agree standards, it's very hard but for the rest of the world to follow. Indeed this is precisely the sort of "soft power" (see the big softie) that the eu's whole place in the world rests on. And yet, to american puzzlement, europe is dragging its feet, as fears over chlorinated chickens, privatised health care and dispute resolution hog and clog the few moments the public mind puts to this. Behind it all though lurks that basic fear of the consequences of global free trade. There is now a new trade commissioner in town; let's hope her "fresh start" can overcome the growing antipathy to what's basically the good idea that's made the world turn these last centuries. History suggests retrenchment and autarky lead only to wars.