Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


More than likely, you’ve never heard of TTIP and don’t care what it is. Well, it’s the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a proposed new trade pact between the United States and Europe. Would it be a good thing if we cobbled together an agreement? Yeah, probably. But Jared Bernstein wisely counsels us not to believe the hype we’re likely to hear about it:

I doubt that an actual TTIP (as opposed to the ones you’ll see simulated in coming months) would have a large effect of trade flows between us, because a) the deal will likely accommodate, not eradicate, initiatives like Airbus and their protection of treasured wines (and TV shows!), and b) again, the barriers just aren’t that high, so I wouldn’t expect bringing them down to be a huge deal (average tariffs between us are around 3-4%). And of course, let the record show that we too subsidize our farms and our Boeings, and these subsidies have survived many a “free trade” agreement.

I could be wrong and this time trade barriers will fall like never before. My point here is that we don’t know, so we should avoid the usual claims—on either side—that are trotted out the minute some diplomat suggests a treaty. If you really want to get a feel for the impact of a deal like this, you actually have to slog through the negotiations. Assumptions about the textbook benefits of free trade won’t help you because in the real world nothing works like the textbooks, especially in this realm.

If you read any TTIP stories, you’ll hear a lot about the nefarious French insistence on maintaining the “cultural exception.” This refers to the French desire to protect French moviemakers, which is pitted against the ecumenical desire of Hollywood moguls to fill every theater in Paris with the latest Avengers flick. It makes for good conflict journalism—chauvinistic but art-loving French! greedy but audience-pleasing Americans!—but it’s basically a sideshow. If Europeans want to continue resisting the tide of American cultural hegemony, that’s not hard to understand. And the amount of money at stake is, in the grand scheme of things, small.

The more serious—and difficult—topics are going to be regulatory harmonization and the removal of various non-tariff barriers. But as Bernstein says, even if we make substantial progress on that stuff it’s hardly going to usher in a golden age. It’s worth doing, but everyone should keep their expectations about its job-creating power firmly in check.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate