Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

Advantages, Disadvantages, Opportunities, Obstacles and Next Steps

••• U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrive to pose with other leaders for a group photo during the G20 summit on September 6, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Photo by Anton Denisov/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images

Definition: The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, is a free trade agreement between two of the world's largest economies. They are the United States, which produced $18.56 trillion in 2016, and the European Union, which produced $19.18 trillion. The two economies generate almost a third of the world's GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of $119.4 trillion.

The United States trades more with the EU than with China.

The total amount traded is already at $1 trillion, but the TTIP could quadruple that amount. It could boost U.S. GDP by 5 percent and the EU's by 3.4 percent. That's by eliminating all tariffs and other trade barriers.

If completed, the TTIP would become the world's largest trade agreement. That would boost the power of the U.S. Economy. It would be bigger than the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It would be even bigger than the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Source: "Come On, TTIP," The Economist, February 16, 2013.)

The importance of the EU is even greater for foreign direct investment (FDI). European companies accounted for $1.5 trillion, or 63 percent, of total FDI in the United States.  American companies accounted for $1.7 trillion, or 50 percent, of FDI in Europe in 2009.

These investments use four million workers on both sides of the Atlantic. That's how many are employed by the affiliates of European or U.S.-based companies.

For example, the German company Siemens, employs 60,000 people in the United States. General Electric employs 70,000 workers in Europe. (Source: "U.S.-EU Trade and Economic Relations: Key Policy Issues for the 112th Congress," Congressional Research Service, January 18, 2012.)

President Obama kicked off the TTIP during his 2013 State of the Union Address.

The next day, trade representatives began "the internal procedures necessary to launch negotiations." (Source: "U.S., EU Announce Decision to Launch Negotiations on TTIP," USTR, February 13, 2017.)


The advantages of the TTIP are evident. Greater growth would create jobs and prosperity for both areas. Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced it could create two million jobs. (Source: "EU/US Trade Deal Could Produce £100 Billion," Belfast Telegraph,  June 18, 2013.)

Some industries would benefit more than others. For example, drug companies would cut costs. That's because there would be one agreed-upon drug testing program for the U.S. and EU. The electric car industry would profit by complying with one unified standard. American farmers could expand if the EU permitted genetically modified agricultural products.

An agreement would strengthen the geopolitical standing of the Trans-Atlantic bloc against the rising economic power of China, India, and other Pacific nations, as well as the growing success of Latin America. If the United States and the EU could iron out their differences, they could stand as a united front against market threats from the rest of the world. 


Many industries could suffer from the increased competition from Europe.

That might result in fewer jobs for American workers. These disadvantages go with any trade agreement.  

For example, European agribusiness would suffer from cheaper American-made food imports. Both governments would have to stop protecting industries such as French champagne. Boeing, an American plane company, is in fierce global competition against France's Airbus. The agreement could hurt one more than the other.


The biggest obstacle is the protected status of each country's agribusinesses. They all receive government subsidies. It's unlikely either trade partner would decrease the amount of government support. That would increase food prices even more.  

The EU bans all genetically-modified crops. It prohibits meat from animals treated with growth hormones. It also refuses poultry that's been washed with chlorine.

These are all practices common with U.S. food. European consumers would protest if these bans were lifted. They want protection from tainted or lower quality food. (Source: " How Chlorine Washed Chicken Prevents U.S. EU Trade," Washington Post, February 13, 2013.)

Then there are many smaller issues. For example, Greece requires any cheese labeled "feta" be made from sheep or goats. U.S. dairies make feta cheese from cow's milk.

It's highly unlikely that the EU will compromise in relaxing regulations. In fact, opposition to lowering these standards is what finally rang the death knell for the Doha round of world trade talks.


One scenario to overcome these obstacles might be a tiered-approach. Negotiations could be successful in areas that aren't major sticking points. For example, remaining tariffs could be eliminated. However, this wouldn't have much of an economic impact, since tariffs are already low.


On June 23, 2016, Great Britain voted to leave the European Union. That throws the negotiations into a new level of uncertainty. It could take two years for the details of its exit to be worked out. That clouds its status as a member of the trade agreement. The vote strengthens the anti-globalization and anti-trade voices within Congress.

The 11th round of negotiations began on October 20, 2015, in Miami. Negotiations on the food issues remain a sticking point. (Source: "Food Rules Prove Hard to Swallow," The Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2015.)

On April 16, 2015, Congress gave the President fast-track trade promotion authority until 2021. It allowed President Obama to proceed with final negotiations. Fast-track means Congress must either give a thumbs up or thumbs down on an entire trade deal. They cannot revisit every element of a multilateral trade agreement. That makes it easier for the administration to finalize negotiations. (Source: Top U.S. Lawmakers Strike Fast Track Deal, CBS, April 16, 2015.) 

Negotiations began right after the 2013 G8 Summit. After Obama's 2013 State of the Union, the two sides agreed to adopt the High-Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth (HLWG) Report as a basis to continue negotiations. The HLWG was appointed in 2011 to find the best way to reach a deal on the TTIP.

On February 11, 2013, the HLWG presented recommendations grouped in the following three areas:

Market Access - The best way to improve this would be to:

  • Eliminate all duties and tariffs on non-sensitive products. Continue negotiations for the sensitive markets, such as commercial aircraft and agriculture.
  • Make licensing and qualification requirements more transparent for services.
  • Liberalize investment procedures while retaining protection.
  • Improve access to government procurement opportunities.

Behind the Border Processes and Regulations - These are differences in processes that aren't tariffs or laws but still make it difficult for foreign firms to do business. To overcome this, the HLWG recommends that the two sides:

  • Use the standards set by the Word Trade Organization (WTO) to use agreed upon scientific methods to address sanitary issues. In other words, the EU needs to drop its refusal to accept GMO and hormone-treated foods. (This will be tough to resolve.)
  • Use WTO standards to create uniform testing, certification and standardization requirements.
  • Work together to implement existing and develop new regulations.
  • Where rules and certifications remain different, agree to accept approved goods and services from the other trading partner. (For example, doctors and pharmacists could use their license to work anywhere in the trading area.)
  • Develop procedures to cooperate on developing future regulations.

Rules Addressing Shared Global Trade Challenges and Opportunities - These are issues that will set a standard for trade agreements everywhere. The HLWG recommends that both sides:

  • Cooperate and present a united front on protecting intellectual property rights.
  • Include environmental and labor protection in the TTIP, using existing guidelines.
  • Reach agreement in areas that are vital to global trade. These include customs and trade facilitation, competition policy, state-owned enterprises, protection of local industries, raw materials and energy, small- and medium-size businesses, and transparency. (Source: "Final Report," HLWG, February 11, 2013.)  

For the latest updates, see United States Mission to the European Union.