Support in Principle for U.S.-EU Trade Pact

Support in Principle for U.S.-EU Trade Pact

The FINANCIAL -- The European Union and the United States are negotiating the most economically significant regional free trade agreement in history: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Publics in Germany and the United States support TTIP and trade expansion in general, especially with each other, according to Pew Research Center.

But when it comes to specifics, both Americans and Germans oppose many details of this far-reaching initiative. Moreover, they disagree with one another on making transatlantic regulatory standards similar. And, in the United States, there is a striking generation gap in attitudes relating to TTIP.

Motivations for backing the deal also differ. Americans, more than Germans, are somewhat more likely to support this trade agreement as part of a broader effort to boost competitiveness with China, according to Pew Research Center.

These are among the main findings of two parallel Pew Research Center surveys conducted among 953 people in Germany from February 25 to February 26, 2014 and 1,002 people in the United States from February 27 to March 2, 2014. All interviews were done by telephone. The survey was conducted in partnership with the Bertelsmann Foundation, the North American arm of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German foundation that promotes international understanding.

By more than two-to-one, Germans (55% to 25%) and Americans (53% to 20%) say TTIP will be good for their countries. There is no partisan divide in support for TTIP between adherents of the major German political parties, but more Democrats (60%) than Republicans (44%) in the United States back the deal.

And while there is no generation gap on this issue in Germany, young Americans (67%), those ages 18 to 29, are significantly more in favor of TTIP than their elders (45%), age 50 and older, according to Pew Research Center.

Support for TTIP in principle does not translate into majority backing for some of the key objectives of the negotiation. The TTIP talks are multifaceted. They aim to reduce or eliminate tariffs on all merchandise trade across the Atlantic. Another goal is to remove restrictions on transatlantic investment. And, for the first time in any bilateral trade agreement, TTIP involves an attempt to come up with common technological and regulatory standards for the transatlantic marketplace, wherever possible.

Only 38% of Germans and 41% of Americans support the removal of all tariffs on the transatlantic shipment of goods. Just 41% of Germans and 39% of Americans back the elimination of restrictions on transatlantic foreign investment. And Germans and Americans sharply disagree over the most ambitious TTIP objective: making transatlantic regulatory standards as similar as possible. While Americans support such an effort by a margin of four-to-one (76% to 18%), just 45% of Germans agree.

A consistent generation gap also exists in the United States around the details of a U.S.-EU free trade agreement. Young people are more predisposed than older Americans to support removing investment barriers and eliminating tariffs. Roughly eight-in-ten Americans under age 30 also back the idea of making product and service standards as similar as possible between the U.S. and EU, perhaps not surprising given the fact that this generation is far less trusting than their parents and grandparents of the U.S. government’s ability to set strong safety and privacy standards.

Revelations of spying by the U.S. National Security Agency, including listening in on phone calls made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also may have impacted German and American views on regulation of data privacy, according to Pew Research Center.

A significant share (85%) of Germans prefers European regulation of data privacy, trusting more in their own government’s capacity in this realm than in U.S. regulation. And, in the United States, men, the young, those with a college degree and high-income persons disproportionately lack faith in American standards protecting their data’s confidentiality.  Overall, roughly half (49%) of Americans trust U.S. privacy standards. But only about four-in-ten high-income Americans (39%) share that trust compared with nearly six-in-ten low-income people (58%), a 19 percentage point difference in views. There is a similar 14 point divide on the issue between those who have graduated from college (39%) and those without a college degree (53%).

Overall, TTIP’s broad goal is to boost transatlantic trade and investment. More than seven-in-ten Americans and Germans see increasing U.S.-EU trade as beneficial, with nearly eight-in-ten Americans supportive of more trade with Germany in particular.

However, Americans are, in general, more approving than Germans when it comes to transatlantic investment. Two-thirds of Americans (66%), but only roughly half of Germans (49%), say that greenfield investment, when foreigners build new factories in their country, helps the nation. But nearly three-quarters of Germans (73%) and more than half of Americans (56%) say foreign mergers and acquisitions (where a European corporation buys an existing American one or a U.S. company acquires a German firm) hurt the country, according to Pew Research Center.