EU, US going their own way: What does TTIP mean for Africa?

1 December 2014

“We’re talking about what could be the biggest bilateral trade deal in history, a deal that will have a greater impact than all the other trade deals on the table put together.”

In June 2013, when hosting the G8-summit, British Prime Minister David Cameron used these words to announce the proposed free trade area between the US and the EU, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Given the economic weight of the transatlantic partners – the 28 EU member states and the US jointly account for nearly one third of world trade flows – and hence its systemic relevance, TTIP is commonly referred to as a mega-regional trade agreement. 

In addition to its direct role as a market access enabler, the agreement is envisaged as a tool to address a plethora of trade-related issues and improve compatibility among the different regulations and rules on both sides of the Atlantic. According to the EU’s TTIP mandate released after the seventh round of negotiations in October 2014, the items on the agenda cover areas ranging from investment protection over public procurement to non-tariff barriers.

With this agenda, TTIP adds to existing multilateral commitments both in depth and breadth, a phenomenon similarly observed with other mega-regionals currently under discussion, notably the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in Asia-Oceania.  

Beyond the debate about the economic rationale underpinning TTIP – the US and the EU are expecting a boost in their annual GDP growth of 0.3 percent and 0.7 percent respectively – questions have been raised over how third countries will be affected if the EU and the US leverage their agreement to set the standards in 21st century world trade.

In light of these considerations, the Bridges Africa team has chosen to feature various analyses on the impact of TTIP for Africa, guided by the following questions: Within the dynamic landscape of international trade regulation, what are the challenges and opportunities facing African countries in their bid to secure sustained economic growth? How realistic is a fully-fledged transatlantic deal with ramifications beyond the mega-regional trade poles? Finally, which design features of TTIP could be harnessed for African economies? 

Also, this edition sheds light on the topic of non-tariff measures (NTMs): Which NTMs are the most burdensome for African countries and how can they tackle these hurdles more effectively?

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