Nordic people support free trade across the Atlantic

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

A survey has shown that there is strong support for TTIP among the Nordic countries. [miguelb/Flickr]

There is strong support among the Nordic people for TTIP, due to the economic benefits the agreement promises to bring, write Karsten Dybvad, Jyri Häkämies, Carola Lemne, Kristin Skogen Lund and Thorsteinn Víglundsson.

Karsten Dybvad, Jyri Häkämies, Carola Lemne, Kristin Skogen Lund and Thorsteinn Víglundsson are the respective Director Generals of the Confederation of Danish Industry, the Confederation of Finnish Industries, the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise and SA – Business Iceland.

In the Nordic countries, free trade is very much a part of who we are. We are small economies, but together we are world leaders in high-end exports and shipping. Our history has been forged by tradesmen, venturing west to settlements like the Faeroes, Iceland and Greenland, and east and south to Ukraine, France, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. Today, a thousand years after Norse settlers stepped ashore on “Vinland”, strengthening our ties across the Atlantic is even more   important.

The United States is the single most important trading partner for all our five countries outside the internal market of the EU/EEA. The EU and the US are currently negotiating a free trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Improving trade is a good idea – and a popular one. A fresh survey among 4,600 citizens shows firm and strong support in all our five countries for the benefits of trade in general and transatlantic trade in particular.

A convincing 71% of the respondents are in support of free trade in general, with the Danes being the most positive of the EU members amongst the Nordic countries. Popular support for a future transatlantic trade deal is roughly four times higher than the opposition. Here again the Danish view is the most positive of the three EU members, but in all five countries support is rock solid. This positive view of the transatlantic trade deal is even stronger among those with most knowledge about it. Icelanders and Norwegians mention lower prices and a better range of products for consumers as the biggest benefits, while the Danes, the Finns and the Swedes highlight exports, growth and jobs. In all five countries it is believed that both the US and Europe will benefit.

The Transatlantic Partnership will have positive repercussions for all of us, for businesses, consumers, growth and jobs in our five countries. Small and medium-sized enterprises are among the most positive towards an agreement, and stand to gain the most. Joint and high standards and regulatory solutions resulting from the agreement will have positive effects for businesses and consumers in all of the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA). Lowered or abolished tariffs will boost trade flows for EU members, with positive effects not least for small- and medium sized companies. In this way, a new home market of almost 850 million people – comprising the Nordics together with the US and all our European partners – will be created.

Even though Iceland and Norway are not in the EU, respondents there can see the benefits an EU/US trade agreement would bring to the Single Market in which they participate. And apart from the injection of energy and growth that will enrich the entire EEA, transatlantic cooperation on standards, testing and certification will also benefit consumers and businesses in Norway and Iceland. Iceland and Norway would in time experience further benefits by joining the TTIP, once the EU and the US have completed negotiations.

No doubt negotiations will be tough when it comes to regulatory aspects. But environmental and consumer protection standards on both sides of the Atlantic are high today, and the 850 million people in this new transatlantic market are modern, demanding and active consumers, and as such a force to be reckoned with in continued demand for sound standards. Such joint transatlantic standards have a good chance of becoming future world standards.

So, with solid support from the people of the Nordic region to back us up we have two requests to the negotiators of the free trade agreement currently being negotiated, TTIP. Firstly, we need a deal to be concluded next year and ratified as soon as possible; and secondly, we need the deal to be ambitious and inclusive, and combined with sound legal safeguards for our member companies’ investments. We wish to join hands with politicians and trade union partners in all our five countries to continue to highlight the benefits to all of us. The fact that the US and Pacific States just agreed on a Trans Pacific Partnership, TPP, makes it even more important that we quickly conclude TTIP negotiations.

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