Swedish industry is poised to benefit from the T-TIP, officials said. Pictured: The city of Malmo in southwestern Sweden.

A few months ago, Atlanta made a concerted push to host negotiations on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a massive free trade deal with Europe (known as T-TIP).  

That hasn’t happened yet, but the city got a huge consolation prize: talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal among 12 Pacific Rim nations that could reach a conclusion tonight as trade ministers meet at the Westin Peachtree Plaza

Speaking at the Metro Atlanta Chamber with the Westin and the downtown skyline at his back, a top commercial official at the Swedish embassy in Washington urged attendees at a Swedish innovation conference to keep pushing for the European deal even though the attention is on Asia at the moment. 

“The message we should bring to them is that it’s time for T-TIP after the TPP in Atlanta,” said Andreas von Uexküll, minister counselor for economic affairs. 

[pullquote]“The message we should bring to them is that it’s time for T-TIP after the TPP in Atlanta.”[/pullquote]

Also speaking on a panel on trade agreements, United Parcel Service Inc. Vice President of Public Policy Dontai Smalls said the company is hopeful about this week’s talks in Atlanta. 

“We’re all in for trade,” Mr. Smalls said. “We hope that there’s a positive result at the Westin tomorrow. We’ve got our executives there on standby ready to provide some positive comments as a result.” 

For Sweden, the contentious deal is vital: Exports account for 50 percent of GDP, and buyers in Asia haven’t compensated for the slowdown in trade within Europe, making the U.S. — the country’s largest market outside Europe — all the more important, Mr. von Uexküll said. 

Sweden this week unveiled a new 22-point, $94 million national export strategy aimed at helping reach a goal of achieving the lowest unemployment rate in Europe by 2020 — and this is coming from a newly elected left-leaning government. To achieve it, the embassies around the world will set up “Team Sweden” in each country, a one-stop shop for investors seeking resources on Sweden. The Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce, whose Georgia branch hosted Thursday’s event, will be one of the plan’s key partners in the U.S.

Mr. von Uexküll said trade isn’t nearly as sensitive in Sweden as it is in the U.S., given that the economic health of the nation of 9 million people relies upon it. 

“In our country, trade negotiations have not been seen as a zero-sum game,” he said. “It’s about being better, and not cheaper.” 

That sentiment is core to T-TIP, which like the Pacific deal finds much of its value not in removing tariffs, which are already low between Europe and the U.S., but in streamlining testing standards to avoid added compliance costs. 

But that could be a tougher sell in the wake of the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, which was uncovered by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency probe that sparked discussion about the efficacy of testing processes in Europe. 

Still, Mr. Smalls said in some cases it’s just about common sense. When U.K.-based companies are fire testing their mattresses, for instance, they have to burn U.S.-bound mattresses separately to comply with American regulations — amounting to about 10 percent of their total production. 

“Imagine how insane that sounds, and so that’s why streamlining some of these regulations is critically important, and we believe that T-TIP is a great tool in achieving that,” Mr. Smalls said, noting that it’s not the only tool. 

John Woodward, director of foreign investment for the chamber, said for Atlanta the investment piece of the agreement will be important as the city looks at new ways of bringing in foreign capital. “Greenfield” investment in new factories only accounts for about 13 percent, while the majority comes in the form of mergers and acquisitions, an area not traditionally pursued by economic developers, he said. 

Much like its Metro Export Plan, Atlanta is set to work with the Brookings Institution to adopt a metro-wide strategy for recruiting foreign investment in the coming year. 

All panelists urged Swedish chamber members to put the pressure on their elected officials to back T-TIP, showing them real stories as to why it matters to their constituencies. 

More than 12,000 Georgia jobs are supported by trade and investment with Sweden alone; bilateral interactions back 300,000-plus jobs nationally. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...