Negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the United States to sign a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) were launched in July 2013.
What started off as a blue-eyed, upbeat campaign to sell TTIP on ‘jobs and growth’ gradually dissolved into what is now considered ‘by far the most controversialagreement the EU has ever negotiated’. Since 2014, the European Commission has lost its grip on the TTIP narrative, which is now dominated by widespread concerns about the loss of social and environmental standards. Over the years, all available arguments have been used to ‘sell’ TTIP to an increasingly sceptical general public. The narrative changed, from ‘jobs and growth’, via ‘transparency’, to ‘strengthening the EU’s voice’. With TTIP, the European Commission faces one of its most important political communication challenges.
In this Clingendael Policy Brief Clingendael's Sr. Research Fellow Peter van Ham examines what went wrong (and occasionally right) in communicating TTIP to Europe, and offers some modest proposals for how the European Commission can do better, or at least make amends. It concludes that the TTIP case underlines the structural problems inherent in the EU’s model of postnational governance and democracy. The problem for the EU is that if the TTIP project fails, the EU’s credibility as a ‘force multiplier’ capable of negotiating valuable trade deals for its member states would suffer badly. It would call into question the EU’s competence and drive to deliver on big promises.