Sitting in a Pepper Hamilton boardroom at Hercules Plaza, European Union Ambassador David O’Sullivan poured himself a glass of Diet Coke.
He and his wife, Agnes, had just spent more than three hours stuck on I-95 trying to get to Wilmington from their home in Washington, D.C., but as one might expect of such a diplomat, the Ambassador didn’t appear frazzled.
Instead, he was quite affable to chat with, and, seated at the far end of the boardroom table, we covered a few quick topics about his quick visit to Delaware.
Ambassador O’Sullivan was there because he’d been meaning to make a proper visit to the First State (he briefly visited with Gov. Jack Markell last July) and to espouse the benefits of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed free-trade agreement between the United States and European Union that’s currently under negotiations.
“It’s really the mother of all trade deals,” O’Sullivan said, adding that the combined U.S. and EU economies represent 30 percent of the world’s GDP and 40 percent of global trade.
So what’s in it for Delaware?
Potentially, quite a lot.
Listening to David O'Sullivan, EU Ambassador to the UN, discussing TTIP and immigration issues pic.twitter.com/y01tEBHMDp
— Hope Krebs (@inttaxgrl) January 28, 2016
First, the Ambassador gave some background on Delaware’s export scene. Nearly 40 percent of the state’s exports go to European countries, he said, and exports going to Belgium, the U.K. and Germany are more than twice what is exported to Canada, and three times as much to China. Almost 48 percent of all of Delaware’s exports to Europe, he said, are chemicals.
TTIP, he said, could give the First State quite a boost. “It would be a gain in exports of $900 million in chemicals, $50 million in electrical machinery and give or take $75 million in other exports,” O’Sullivan said, adding that all of these gains would add up to 2,000 new jobs.
And how exactly would that happen?
Right now, it’s costly to export chemicals because the EU and U.S. have separate testing standards. TTIP would make it easier to create new regulations both parties could use, thus eliminating a lot of costs. TTIP might also have an effect on reducing tariffs, which would also reduce the cost of doing business across the pond.
Unlike in the United States, many in the U.K. are abuzz about TTIP, and some are against it for fear of lowering standards, harming the environment, worsening labor conditions and negatively affecting health services.
O’Sullivan said those concerns are unfounded and are based on a notion of the agreement that isn’t true. Regulation standards, he said, would only be changed in instances when standards are comparable to each other.
“I’m confident when they really see the real deal, they’ll see it has many, many benefits and none of the alleged downsides which people are currently attributing to it,” he said “I’m very confident it will ultimately be approved.”
Delaware Governor Jack Markel weighing in on the issues pic.twitter.com/CQLO96RByQ
— Multilawchair (@Multilawchair) January 28, 2016
Later, when he addressed a crowd of more than 100 organized by the British American Business Council of Greater Philadelphia at Hercules Plaza, O’Sullivan said he hopes the deal will be passed before President Barack Obama leaves office.
Back in the boardroom, we also touched on the end of the Safe Harbor Agreement, a data transfer agreement the European Court invalidated in October. The agreement previously allowed data transfer out of Europe depending on the data protection of the country involved. Without it, companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon have had to transfer data in ways that are less secure and up until October, hadn’t been legal.
“The objective is to get back to a more solid legal framework … as quickly as possible,” O’Sullivan said. A new agreement is expected to surface any day.
And, on a lighter note, we chatted about life in America.
Ambassador O’Sullivan is originally from Ireland and moved to D.C. upon assuming the ambassadorship in November 2014. But he’s not stranger to the United States, joking that because he’s Irish, he’s got more relatives here than in his homeland. He also went to grade school in California, he said.
“What always intrigues me is the diversity of this country,” he said. “Many Europeans tend to think of America as very monolithic, that everywhere is the same, and that’s absolutely not true. The East Coast is very different from the West Coast, and Texas is very different from Montana.”-30-