Despite potentially awkward revelations that the U.S. has bugged parts of Europe, negotiations for a monumental free trade agreement between the new and old worlds are being carried out on schedule last week in DC.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), if agreed upon, will have a significant impact on world trade, as well as the everyday lives of Americans and Europeans alike.
Here's a handy explainer on the key issues related to T-TIP.
What is T-TIP and what does it aim to accomplish?
T-TIP, as its proponents will tell you, is designed to boost economies on both sides of the Atlantic. Estimates made with the support of the European Commission indicate that it would increase world GDP by around $400 billion.
The catch is that, while most free trade agreements are aimed at removing tariffs that discourage trade, this one is different. Tariffs between the U.S. and the E.U are already very low (on the order of 3-4 percent).
This agreement, instead, targets "non-tariff barriers."
What are "non-tariff barriers"?
The euphemism "non-tariff barriers" refers to regulations and standards put in place by democratic governments which "irritate" trade but usually do so out of concern for national, state, or local interests. These interests could include things like having secure financial institutions or preventing children from consuming products that are dangerous.