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TTIP loses support

April 21, 2016

A new German survey has found that Germans and Americans are growing increasingly suspicious of the promise of greater wealth through free trade, with support for the EU-US trade pact TTIP dwindling.

Symbolbild Protest gegen TTIP
Image: Reuters/E. Vidal

Only one in five Germans thinks that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a good thing, according to a survey conducted by the German Bertelsmann Foundation in the United States and Germany.

In the US, opposition to TTIP is slightly lower, with 18 percent of Americans rejecting the free trade pact currently being negotiated between Brussels and Washington.

The results, published in Berlin on Thursday, indicate that initial enthusiasm for the agreement has plummeted. When the trade deal was announced two years ago, about 55 percent of Germans surveyed were for it, while only one in four was against it. In the US, support for TTIP has plunged from more than 50 percent to 15 percent.

The growing skepticism is not just limited to TTIP. Backing for free trade in general has also declined, the survey found. Today, only about half of all Germans considered liberalized trade a good thing, down from 88 percent in 2013.

"Support for trade agreements is fading in a country that views itself as the global export champion. Trade is a key driver of the German economy," said Aart De Geus, Chairman and CEO of the Bertelsmann Foundation.

By contrast, about 82 percent of US citizens surveyed consider free trade to be positive - up from 71 percent two years ago.

Despite the rising unpopularity, De Geus warned in a statement that Germany's economy could suffer and jobs would be at stake if a deal falls through.

Lack of control and information

The EU-US trade pact would create the largest free trade area in the world, directly affecting 800 million people. The Obama administration has pushed hard for TTIP, which it says would spur growth on both sides of the Atlantic through the elimination of tariffs and other trade barriers. Negotiations have been ongoing behind closed doors since 2013. The next round begins Monday in New York.

According to the survey, especially European citizens harbor concerns about a perceived loss of regulatory quality in the wake of TTIP, including poorer standards for products, consumer protection and labor rights. Bertelsmann's Aart De Geus noted that people feared a "race to the bottom," ignoring that TTIP could also bring "opportunities."

Citizens also complained about a lack of information about TTIP. Some 48 percent of Germans, for example, say that the negotiations and even basic information about the deal continue to lack transparency. Some 30 percent of those polled added that they do not feel informed enough to answer any questions about the trade agreement.

In the US, almost half of those surveyed, about 46 percent, said they do not feel sufficiently informed and thus neither support nor oppose the agreement.

A somewhat surprising result is the number of people in both countries who have a positive view of trade with each other. 69 percent of Americans said they consider increased trade with Germany a good thing, while about 61 percent of Germans were in favor of bilateral trade between the two countries.

The survey was conducted by pollster YouGov in late February and involved 2,019 Germans and 1,126 US citizens.

uhe/pad (dpa, Bertelsmann Foundation)