Surprising Poll Economists Skeptical about Trade Treaty

Growing doubts among policymakers about the trans-Atlantic trade agreement now seem to have reached economists too. A new poll shows that just over half of those who belong to the country’s association of economists are still in favor of continuing negotiations.
Among economists, skepticism about the trade treaty is the new black.

In recent weeks, a growing chorus of political voices has expressed reservations about going through with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

That skepticism can also be found among economists, according to a new poll by Handelsblatt’s sister publication WirtschaftsWoche. The weekly business magazine polled the members of the BDVB national association of economists, reporting on Thursday that just 53.8 percent of whom said they would still support continuing the faltering talks with the United States.

It was a surprising result, given that economists have been among the most enthusiastic supporters of the treaty, saying it would boost the economies of both the U.S. and European Union.

Another damning detail from the poll? Some 95 percent of the 450 respondents said they believe politicians failed to adequately communicate the benefits and drawbacks of free trade for Germany.

More than 80 percent of them said that free trade and open markets are either “important” or “very important” for the prosperity if the nation. The TTIP itself, however, seems to be increasingly in doubt.

E.U. trade ministers are due to meet in Bratislava, Slovakia on September 22 to decide on how to continue the TTIP talks. Meanwhile, France said this week that it wants to break off E.U. trade talks with the U.S., which has refused to give way on certain issues.

These include the creation of arbitration courts for disputes, protection for regional food and allowing European firms to tender for U.S. government contracts.

Critics of TTIP fear that the agreement could equal lower environmental and food standards and allow foreign multinationals to challenge government policies. Such fears are widespread in Europe where opposition has been well organized and vocal.

France’s declaration came after German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who is also the head of the center-left junior coalition partner the Social Democratic party, said last weekend that the TTIP talks had failed.

The race is on for supporters to push the deal through before fellow backer U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office at the end of the year. But if WirtschaftsWoche’s poll of economists is any indicator, this goal may be unlikelier than many thought.


Bert Losse is the deputy head of the politics and economy desk at WirtschaftsWoche, one of Handelsblatt's sister publications. To contact the author: [email protected]