TTIP – A Free-Trade Agreement Like Any Other?!
On the evening of 12 May 2016, the commercial law firm Binder Grösswang held its latest discussion in the series Binder Grösswang impulse in the conference area of the firm. The topic was "TTIP – A Free-Trade Agreement Like Any Other?!".
Michael Kutschera, Managing Partner of Binder Grösswang, welcomed the speakers Günther Apfalter, President of Magna Europe & Magna Steyr; Georg Kapsch, President of the Federation of Austrian Industries; Johann Marihart, CEO of AGRANA Beteiligungs-AG and Gert Rücker, Managing Partner of JMB Fashion Team. The discussion was moderated by Martina Salomon, Deputy Editor-in-Chief and Economics Editor of the daily newspaper KURIER. Approximately 200 invited guests attended.
Georg Kapsch, President of the Federation of Austrian Industries, said: “Due to its strongly export-oriented industry, Austria profits more than the average from free trade. The USA is Austria’s second most important export partner, and for this reason, a well-negotiated TTIP agreement represents a major opportunity for growth and employment. Moreover, the agreement would provide an opportunity for Europe to strengthen its competitiveness and set global standards together with the USA – otherwise, these will emerge increasingly in other regions, to the detriment of Europe. The high European standards, for instance in the environmental sector or in the protection of foodstuffs, are not subjects of negotiation and are not endangered by TTIP.”
Johann Marihart, CEO of AGRANA Beteiligungs-AG, stated that even though there were many good reasons for removing tariff barriers and, above all, non-tariff barriers, to trade between the USA and the EU in the sectors of agriculture and foodstuffs, there were still serious concerns: “The genetic modification of plants and the injection of hormones into dairy cows to increase milk production, for example, are everyday practices in the USA. Even if these practices remain prohibited in Europe, products resulting from them will not be labelled as such when offered for sale in Europe, also in the future. This will lead to unfair competition in terms of prices for products produced in accordance with EU greening standards. Therefore, the sections of the agreement relating to foodstuffs have to be accorded a special status.”
Gert Rücker, Managing Partner of JMB Fashion Team, explained that in the last few decades, he, as an entrepreneur in the clothing industry, had experienced the effects that actually arose from free trade agreements between countries with totally different standards: these, he said, included massive losses of jobs, and pressure being exerted on existing high standards. “Therefore,” he continued, “in principal one can say ‘yes’ to free trade and free trade agreements, but first there has to be a binding assurance that Europe’s high ecological and social standards will be maintained. CETA and TTIP specifically put these high standards in jeopardy. At present, for example, discussion is already underway in the textile and clothing industry about raising the concentration limits prescribed by REACH (the EU regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals). The argument being put forward is international competitiveness. This is the wrong path to take, since especially small and medium-sized companies, which comprise the majority of enterprises in Austria and in Europe, are committed to upholding high standards. Their situation must not be weakened by competition from companies that apply totally different standards and therefore have much lower production costs. Quite to the contrary, ecological and social principles have to be made mandatory for our trade partners. This is the only basis on which politics can create framework conditions for fair competition, for fair, free trade.”
Among the guests were: Alfred Fadinger (CEO, Raiffeisen Factor Bank), Johann Maurer (CEO, Macquarie Investment Management Austria Kapitalanlage AG), Hannes Leitgeb (Member of the Managing Board, MASTERINVEST Kapitalanlage GmbH), Herbert Pichler (Member of the Managing Board, Wüstenrot Landeszentrale Wien), Johann Aigner (CEO, Österreichische Donaulager GmbH), Stephan Beiter (Executive Director, Raiffeisen Bank International AG), Markus Bunk (CEO, Österreichische Bankenwissenschaftliche Gesellschaft), Martin Butollo (General Manager, Commerzbank AG), Josef Fritz (Managing Partner, Boardsearch Dr. Pendl & Dr. Piswanger GesmbH), Franz Grohs (Managing Director, T-Systems Austria GmbH), Rainer Gunz (Director, Borealis AG Wien), Martina Lederer (Managing Director, Raiffeisen Property Holding International GmbH), Patrick F. Prügger (Managing Director, B&C Industrieholding GmbH), Klaus Schmid (Managing Director, NTT DATA Österreich GmbH), Günther Tengel (Managing Partner, Amrop Jenewein).
The discussion series Binder Grösswang impulse focuses on current subjects and outstanding personalities, and takes place twice annually in the exclusive ambience of the firm’s premises in Vienna.