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AmCham Business Breakfast, 6 May 2014, Hotel Slon, Ljubljana

AmCham Business Breakfast was this time entirely dedicated to an extremely important topic – TTIP – »Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership«, the most relevant free trade agreement and investment partnership which is currently a subject to intensive negotiations between EU and USA.

Special guests of AmCham Business Breakfast were:

Elena Bryan, Senior Trade Representative at the U.S. Mission to the European Union, who has according to AmCham EU an important role in the negotiations and an excellent overview of the field of TTIP


HE Dr. Anna Elisabeth Prinz, Ambassador of Germany in Slovenia

Discussion was moderated by Luka Vesnaver, Director of Advisory Services – Transaction services, PwC

At the end of the event our honorary panelists also listened to an active discussion of the representatives of the Slovenian economy and government, candidates for MEPs and diplomats.

At the end of the debate and having heard everything discussed, Slovene businessmen and other participants expressed their opinion that the negotiations will be successful and the TTIP will be adopted via voting with 71% votes FOR and 29% AGAINST.

Message delivered by Elena Bryan among other things emphasizes: “If the TTIP succeeds, it will be a game changer for individuals, companies, Slovenia, EU, USA and the world. TTIP means higher economic growth, new job positions, less red tape, abolition of customs duties and increase in exports.

TTIP also allows uniform products and services for a market that at the moment generates 4 trillion in commercial sales, and in the long run – for the whole world. The average European household’s annual income would increase by 545€. By harmonizing the standards companies would additionally cut the costs.«

These are only some of the benefits brought by the agreement, concerns posed by this historic agreement were discussed more in detail by HE Dr. Anna Elizabeth Prinz and MEP candidates Mojca Kleva Kekuš and Darija Radič. Geographical origin of food, agriculture, health, safety and environmental standards. They primarily pointed out the questions of transparency, food quality, agriculture, healthcare, safety and environmental standards.

“I am a negotiator, not a regulator.”

Elena Bryan, Senior Trade Representative at the U.S. Mission to the European Union said: »Indeed, TTIP is a big project for both sides. The idea already appeared 20 years ago, however the conditions were not yet suitable for such an agreement back then. Meanwhile, the negotiation process between USA and EU is in the progress to find a common language between two equal partners in order to realize the largest trade agreement in the world so far. Certainly, this is not easy an easy task and it presents a challenge in negotiations to both sides, especially in maintaining each of its high standards by both negotiators in specific areas. The objective of the TTIP agreement is to bring advantages and benefits like job creation, more international trade and economic growth to both sides. An important element of TTIP is that it could be supported by the policies on the both sides of the pond.”

Elena Bryan presented four important areas of TTIP:

  1. Liberalization of products and services;
  2. Achieving high standards in investment agreements;
  3. Achieving high standards and standardization of regulatory systems: there is a strong diversification on both sides, as each side has its own independent development of regulatory systems, therefore regulatory barriers of the agreement occur and we are looking for solutions;
  4. Common activities and developing a joint strategy

“We are definitely working on raising the standards together, to find each other and look for a common language while maintaining our focus on how to keep high standards for products and services which people expect,” she said and further explained: “I am a negotiator, not a regulator. Each of us carries out its own task, but we work together for the realization of the agreement.”

“In the USA, for example, chicken is soaked in the chloride solution. We soak our children in the pools filled with this solution. However, we need to find areas where we will be able to standardize.”

HE Dr. Anna Elisabeth Prinz, Ambassador of Germany in Slovenia, explained the advantages she sees in the TTIP: “There is a fierce competition in the European automobile industry and right here is where I see great advantages in the TTIP agreement. Thus I see practical aspects in TTIP. I have a list of 12 advantages or benefits of this agreement. We have to look to the future. I would like to point out particularly that we need to be very attentive to the areas of electric mobility, nanotechnology or new technology.

Moderator Luka Vesnaver, PwC, raised the issue about different perspectives of USA an EU on TTIP benefits and concerns, to which HE De. Anna Prinz replied that she sees the major problem of the agreement in harmonization of food quality and standards in areas concerning agriculture, farming and environmental protection: “I would like to say that in the USA, for example, chicken is soaked in the chloride solution. We soak our children in the pools filled with a similar solution. But it is true that we find that unacceptable for the food. All of this is actually an experiment. I do agree however that we need to find areas where we can meet and harmonize.”

“Even the salad packed in bags is washed in chloride.”

Elena Bryan replied: “Did you know that all the bags that come as a packaging when you buy salad packed in bags is washed with chloride? I emphasize that a discussion is critically important for a well-developed system. In the end, the biggest challenge is actually to find a way to look for a common language in the matters that are really important to both sides.

Therefore both sides are focused on what needs to be done to adapt the legislation and regulation.”

Possibility of conflicts if governments will not be able to decide autonomously

HE Dr. Anna Prinz highlighted two more problems Germany sees in TTIP:

  1. Protection of investments
  2. Possibility of political decisions made by each country – which she supported by a German example of such a problem: after the unfortunate incident in Fukushima, the political decision of Germany was to stop the construction of nuclear power plants, which could lead to a serious conflict in case of adopting TTIP, while a question arises whether the government can still decide on such matters independently or it will be suggested or even required from them. This is not just a political maneuver, but also for protection. We need quick decisions in these industries.
  3. How to combine TTIP requirements in its own parliament – regardless of whether we are French, Slovene or German.
  4. Doubts in the public – they are unable to read the complete TTIP program and are wondering how to participate in the decisions.

Doubts must be put on the table

Elena Bryan replied to the dilemmas exposed and warnings about the weaknesses and threats of TTIP: ”We were determined already before the negotiations that we must put all the doubts on the table. We talk a lot about the protection of the investors in the USA, and we have developed a model for protection of investors, which means higher standards in the investing agreements. Also, we wrote what such an agreement means for investors. First we defined the basic standards and set financial penalties for transgressions. The emphasis was also put on ethical behavior and decision, that all the processes, results, dilemmas, provisions and negotiation process will be public.”

“In the USA we have a great interest to merge both economies. I have to say that it is necessary to manage expectations, which means that you should not rely on the fact that TTIP could solve tax situation of each country” she said.

Why should a small country like Slovenia be interested in TTIP?

Mag. Ajša Vodnik, Executive Director of AmCham Slovenia asked the panelists why should a small country like Slovenia be interested in TTIP and what makes it relevant for Slovene companies.

HE Dr. Anna Prinz was short and gave an answer to the point: “Because of the future of individual industries. You will be connected to the global market better and reduce the costs.”

Elena Bryan agreed with the German Ambassador and emphasized: “TTIP means a direct export from EU to USA and vice versa. It is important to get involved with the entire chain of suppliers in the global market. You may not see the direct effect, but it is important to be a part of such a chain for economy of a small country.”

TTIP affects corporations as well as small and medium enterprises

SME mag. Mojca Kleva Kekuš warned that European Parliament senses a lack of transparency of the mentioned agreement and estimates that negotiations take place behind the closed doors. They are wondering when the documents will be available. The lack of transparency causes also a lack of trust and trigger (perhaps unjustified) rumors. Therefore she proposed to Elena Bryan for negotiations to be more open and share more information about TTIP negotiation results with the public. “It is important for Slovenia to be aware that the agreement will not only affect corporations but also small and medium enterprises” further emphasized mag. Kleva Kekuš.

Elena Bryan thanked for the question of transparency, adding that they will never again come across such a level of transparency as it is present here in any other negotiation and agreement. We work hard for that.

She pointed out that: “Negotiators of both sides understand the needs and importance of involvement of the stakeholders – everyone should be engaged in the process and we need feedback from all of them. That is why we open the door for the interested public every time during the negotiations, and usually up to 400 people show up – stakeholders, to present their interests, dilemmas, proposals. We recognized the importance of TTIP not only as a necessary, but also useful added value.”

Nataša Goršek Mencin, Permanent Representative of the European Commission in Slovenia said she was delighted to see such an event, where importance of dialogue about the TTIP negotiations was pointed out, because in her opinion there were no such discussions in Slovenia yet. She concluded that they are striving to raise the awareness about TTIP in Slovenia and stressed that in the end the agreement will need to be confirmed by individual governments and MEPs, therefore it is important that the debate develops in the individual Member States and then opinions come to Brussels.

EU and USA will find a common path

Darja Radič, MBA, said that if she were elected into European Parliament, she would support the agreement, because she is confident that Slovenia needs it to raise competitiveness and increase creation of new jobs. She gave a warning about some problems that need to be discussed to keep the high standards we have on both sides. She particularly emphasized the need for mechanisms to protect the investors be precisely defined. She believes however that EU and USA will find a common path.

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