THE BLOG
10/06/2015 13:25 BST | Updated 10/06/2016 06:59 BST

Europe Needs a Smart TTIP

Now is not the time to say 'Yes' or 'No' to TTIP - it hasn't been negotiated yet. We have a responsibility to fight for a progressive deal for Europe, with the necessary safeguards. But for the sake of our continent and the future of the European Union we have built together, we must give TTIP a chance.

There are many growing threats to European prosperity and security; an expansionist Russia, the rise of ISIS and the looming threat of irreversible climate change. Let alone the possible fragmentation of our own European Union. We should not add a possible EU - US trade agreement to this list.

One of the greatest challenges Europe will face in the coming years is a totemic shift in the global economic balance of power from West to East. China, India, Brazil and so many others - are emerging.

According to recent projections by the OECD, Europe and the United States will only account for a quarter of worldwide GDP by 2060.China's economy will then be bigger than ours and the US combined.

The reality is our share of global trade is set to reduce dramatically. This will have significant consequences for our standards of living and our global influence. A smart TTIP agreement will allow us to counter this trend, yet many Europeans now believe that an advanced trade deal with the US - TTIP - presents a threat to our European values. These assumptions must be challenged.

Contrary to some of claims made, this deal will not undermine EU legislation on genetically modified organisms, on beef treated with hormones, on chicken cleaned in chlorinated treatments or on chemicals more generally.

TTIP is an opportunity for Europe to use its global weight to impose our high standards on the world. We will not simply accept lower standards from the US. The EU's 28 member countries and the European Parliament would have to approve any changes to EU laws or regulations.

Neither will TTIP restrict Europe's ability to provide public services, which will be exempt from any deal. Europe is already party to a significant number of trade agreements - yet to my knowledge, our public services are not now being run by South Korean or Mexican corporations.

We need an international mechanism to provide investor protection, a reformed ISDS; but there is no evidence to suggest, as many have, that US corporations would routinely be able to override the decisions of sovereign EU Governments. The TTIP deal is an excellent opportunity to radically reform investment protection and to help provide certainty for European companies on the US market and elsewhere.

Another accusation is this trade deal is being negotiated in secret. Yet the reality is this will be the most transparent trade agreement ever negotiated. Once EU and US negotiators have come up with an agreement, it will be published. EU governments - together with the European Parliament - will examine the text and can approve or reject it.

Americans have better access to Europe's markets than Europeans on the US market - a smart TTIP will unlock the American market for our businesses, while keeping our standards and values intact.

Now is not the time to say 'Yes' or 'No' to TTIP - it hasn't been negotiated yet. We have a responsibility to fight for a progressive deal for Europe, with the necessary safeguards. But for the sake of our continent and the future of the European Union we have built together, we must give TTIP a chance.

Guy Verhofstadt is Leader of the European Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament