United States, Japan, Australia, and other nine Pacific Countries signed at the end of year 2015 the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement. It has started a new trade bloc, through the reduction of customs tariffs. Rules concerning the exchange of goods and services, prices of foodstuffs, costs of hospital care, and standards for data exchange will change. This Treaty will also introduce new rules concerning investments, environment, and work.
However, TPP has also a high strategic value in defining the global geopolitical balance, because it stems from the will expressed by both USA and Japan to counter the advance of China. This issue is important. It has also implications in Europe, as the Chinese Premier Jiabao demanded to the European Union a full recognition of China as a market economy in view of the assistance offered by his Country to some European States. This eventuality, without the appropriate trade defence instruments, could call into question the entire EU economic system.
The Trans-Pacific Treaty undoubtedly plays an ‘external’ role on the continuation of the Trans-Atlantic Treaty negotiations (TTIP, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the primary one for the interests of Europe), too. As a matter of fact, if this Treaty had initially created a ‘drop in interest’ by the Americans towards Europe, on the other hand it has defined rules and standards that, if we do not sign, in turn, an agreement with the USA, we could be forced to comply.
One of the points of contact between TPP and TTIP specifically concerns our quality alimentary productions and their recognition.
As a matter of fact, from the text of the Treaty (TPP) it can be seen that one or more participating Countries may take position against the recognition of individual products with geographical indications agreed upon by another contractor. This is a dangerous precedent, which can undermine the protection of the European agro-alimentary excellences, and especially the Italian ones, in future trade agreements, first of all just TTIP.
Both recognition and protection of Geographical Indications, as repeatedly pointed out, are our key points of these negotiations, directly related to the transparency of the information addressed to the American consumers, who are often the victims of misleading at the time of purchase.
It will be necessary to find a convergence on these issues, between labelling that immediately expresses the real provenance of a food or a drink, and the most ‘mediated’ forms (barcodes, QR-code) proposed by the Americans. This solution will play an important role in countering ‘Italian sounding’, too, which is widespread in America.
A positive and widely shared proposal of agreement concerning agriculture - as the US State Secretary of Agriculture, Vilsack, reminded last November 30th in the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels - will allow TTIP becoming an opportunity that will lead an important process in terms of growth and economic consolidation for both sides of the Atlantic.
The negotiation process is long and complex, but it is crucial to keep in mind that the highest goal, common to both parties, is to define high standards that will have to become a global model.