This week, our experts examine the link between the ongoing Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations and the recent spying revelations by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.


Federiga BindiJean Monnet chair in European political integration at the University of Rome Tor Vergata and senior fellow at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

No, the TTIP should not be held ransom to Snowden. It is too important and too vital to both the EU and the U.S. economies and their economic recoveries. It would be dumb to sacrifice it.

Last week, during the European Parliament’s constituency week, over 200 parliamentarians felt the urge to travel to Washington. Of course, the visits had been planned for a long time, but they came in very handy for members of the European Parliament (MEPs) wanting to show EU citizens—who financed the trips—how much they cared about their voters’ privacy.

Yet what MEPs regularly fail to tell their constituents is that, for the sake of global and domestic security, controlling communications is more important today than having missiles was yesterday. Are MEPs no longer interested in the United States defending Europe? Good to know—that means Europe can finally create a true defense community! Oh, but if that costs money and constituents won’t be happy about it? Well, then MEPs had better decide where their priorities lie.

As for German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders, they should simply assume that domestic and international secret services are listening to their conversations—it comes with the job. After all, spying has always been as essential component of diplomacy. 


Uri DadushSenior associate in Carnegie’s International Economics Program

The TTIP negotiations should go ahead. But that does not give the United States carte blanche to continue widespread snooping.

Targeted and properly sanctioned monitoring of phone calls in the presence of a clear security threat is one thing; systematic listening in is something else. The idea of a Big Brother eavesdropping indiscriminately on Americans’ and Europeans’ phone calls is repugnant, and I struggle to understand the American public’s relatively muted reaction to Snowden’s revelations.

Again and again, government officials left unchecked have abused their powers, most often in the belief that the end justifies the means. Not long ago, senior U.S. officials interned their own citizens in wartime, sanctioned the assassination or overthrow of foreign leaders, broke into the offices of their domestic political opponents, invaded a foreign country on the flimsiest of evidence, and allowed the torture of suspected terrorists.

Even if the American public is willing to place blind trust in its country’s bureaucracy, America’s European allies should not. Europeans must give a clear signal—with actions, not just words—that this cannot go on. The best way to react is through diplomatic and security means. A good example is Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s recent decision to cancel a state visit to the United States; another would be to stop sharing information on banking transactions via the SWIFT system.

At this stage, the TTIP negotiations should still be pursued. But the U.S. negotiators should not assume that both sides will trust each other’s domestic regulations in sectors ranging from data security to food to pharmaceuticals if the systematic spying continues.


Alexandra de Hoop SchefferSenior transatlantic fellow and director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Paris

While the Snowden revelations have caused a temporary fracture in transatlantic relations and trust, I do not believe they will, or should, lead to a suspension of TTIP negotiations.

The timing is now ideal to kick-start a frank discussion among transatlantic allies on defining the balance between liberty and security. This means reaching a realistic agreement on data protection in the TTIP, but also on counterterrorism cooperation. The eventual aim should be to prevent the recent rift from reoccurring, especially after the bitter aftertaste left by the U.S. Terrorist Finance Tracking Program, which gave the U.S. government access to financial information via the SWIFT database to assist in the prevention of terrorism.

Rather than affect ongoing TTIP negotiations, the Snowden revelations might therefore have a greater impact in redefining the scope and framework of the post-9/11 approach to counterterrorism. It has become obvious that NSA data-tracking programs go far beyond the fight against terrorism.

What is more, the Snowden revelations will turn out to be more costly for U.S. domestic politics than for foreign policy. The disclosures will cause long-term damage to the relationship between the White House, the State Department, and the NSA, which have been playing a blame game since the affair came to light. That has further reinforced U.S. President Barack Obama’s weakness on the domestic stage in light of his 2011 decision to significantly expand the NSA’s authority without congressional authority or public debate.


John KornblumSenior counselor at Noerr LLP and a former U.S. ambassador to Germany

To hold the TTIP ransom to Snowden would be suicide for Europe. But the damage has probably already been done. The negotiations face a very uncertain future.


Gianni RiottaMember of the Council on Foreign Relations

Of course it should not. But feelings between the United States and the EU soured in the run-up to the Iraq War of 2003 and have never recovered. Barack Obama wrongly assumed the falling-out was simply an aversion to former U.S. president George W. Bush’s unilateral posture. It was not. The end of the Cold War, the eurozone crisis, and the U.S. pivot to Asia have transformed transatlantic bonds forever.

A cultural shift is separating America and Europe on welfare, innovation, defense, and privacy. Just look at the different approaches to shale gas or research on genetically modified foods, and you will see two continents moving further and further apart.

Trade and Snowden will simply be two more battlefields in this guerrilla fight. The TTIP is good for the EU, for the United States, and for the world. A good treaty kidnapped by current paranoia is a testament to our sorry global mood.


Daniela SchwarzerHead of the research division on EU integration at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (German Institute for International and Security Affairs)

The TTIP should not be held ransom to Snowden. Several EU member states have shown unprecedented anger toward and loss of trust in the United States. That requires a thoughtful and substantial answer from Barack Obama to kick off a long process aimed at rebuilding trust not only among political elites, but also among citizens.

But delaying progress in the TTIP negotiations, for instance by attempting to include data protection rules in an agreement on trade and investment, would be an unfortunate decision.

TTIP negotiations are under considerable time pressure: there are roughly two years of negotiating time before the next U.S. electoral campaign risks stopping progress. Revising the European Commission’s negotiation mandate to include data protection would take time—and could invite requests for further amendments.

Risking the failure of TTIP negotiations altogether would strip Europe of important and much-needed extra sources of growth. Given the more robust short- and medium-term outlook for U.S. growth, the EU is likely to benefit from sustained demand in the United States, in particular if Europe succeeds in raising its own competitiveness.

So while the EU should swallow its dismay, European leaders should pressure the United States to put in place a data protection agreement outside the TTIP. Given the harsh reactions to the recent NSA scandal, Europeans will not accept a middle ground between (higher) European and (lower) U.S. standards that downgrades European norms substantially. Tougher but workable data protection standards—outside the TTIP—are the price the United States may need to pay after the recent revelations.


Stephen SzaboExecutive director of the Transatlantic Academy

There is no reason for Europeans to shoot themselves in the foot in anger over the Snowden revelations by linking the disclosures to the TTIP. A successful conclusion to the trade and investment partnership is in the interests of both sides. The NSA revelations do not change this in any way.

The main purpose of these negotiations is to reinforce and broaden the transatlantic core of the international system amid economic trouble at home and the rise of non-Western powers abroad. This is a major strategic project whose scope should put the disturbing Snowden revelations into their proper perspective.