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“Trade is a Good Deal” – Kris Peeters on the Importance of Transatlantic Trade

On Tuesday, November 15, AmCham Belgium’s Antwerp Chapter welcomed Kris Peeters, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Employment, Economy and Consumers, and Dr. Koen Berden, Director of Outreach at the World Trade Institute and team lead for the recent Impact Assessment of TTIP for Belgium study, at the new Port House in Antwerp, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects.

Deputy Prime Minister Peeters started off his keynote speech discussing the outcome of the US elections and the expected impact of a Trump presidency on transatlantic trade, hoping that “reason will triumph over emotion and [that] America will continue to choose for open and respectful ties with Belgium, Europe and the rest of the world.” It is exactly our openness that boosts our prosperity: 571,000 jobs in Belgium are directly linked to trade outside of Europe. The positive impact of trade is just as big across the Atlantic, and Minister Peeters hoped the US and its next President will not lose sight of this.

Minister Peeters emphasized that the Belgian Government is still very much in favor of a strong TTIP agreement. The Impact Assessment of TTIP for Belgium study projects additional GDP growth between 2.2% and 8.7% for Belgium after 20 years from the moment a comprehensive trade agreement between the EU and the US is implemented. Having listed these impressive figures, the Minister said he was confident that TTIP will remain a priority for the US and for Europe.

Certain sectors will gain much more than others with a comprehensive TTIP agreement, and some industries will even be impacted negatively. Minister Peeters stressed it is important to pay attention to these concerns and mitigate any negative effects – for example, with measures similar to the US Trade Adjustment Act or to reform and reinforce the European Globalization Fund.

Preserving norms and standards based on European values is a key priority for Belgium and the EU, said Minister Peeters. Moving forward towards a comprehensive agreement as projected will still take some time. He said he might be interested in closing a first agreement as soon as possible with the new US administration, a so-called ‘early harvest’ focusing on tariffs and other traditional FTA elements, followed by a second, more comprehensive agreement on rules and regulatory cooperation. In the end, the Minister was hopeful that the direction taken by the new US administration will still include a future for stronger transatlantic trade, because “trade is a good deal.”

Impact Assessment of TTIP for Belgium

The keynote speech was followed by a presentation from Dr. Koen Berden, Director of Outreach at the World Trade Institute and the team lead for the Impact Assessment of TTIP for Belgium study, who highlighted some of the results. According to Dr. Berden, trade has seen a major shift from final goods trade to parts and components trade. In some cases, parts and components can travel several times across the Atlantic Ocean, accumulating tariffs on every overseas trip before ending up in the final product.

Some of Belgium’s top imports from the US still face EU tariffs, as do some of our country’s top exports to the US. Tariff reductions on both sides would make importing tobacco, juices and fruits cheaper and reduce input costs for the chemical sector. These tariff reductions would also open market access for Belgian tobacco, chemicals, motor vehicles, textiles and clothing in the US. Belgian SMEs would benefit – particularly in the provinces of Namur, Hainaut and Limburg – as would the Port of Antwerp.

Not only will a comprehensive TTIP agreement boost Belgium’s GDP, but also Belgian exports to the US are expected to increase by 20.8% and imports from the US to increase by 23.7%. With these impressive figures in hand, trade indeed looks like a good deal for both sides of the Atlantic.

You can find the full report Impact Assessment of TTIP for Belgium on the website of FPS Economy here.