One of the most frequent refrains by critics of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is that the US and Europe already enjoy close economic and political ties — what need is there for a signed and ratified treaty?

As Dr. Dan Hamilton, Executive Director of John Hopkins’ Center for Transatlantic Relations, stated during Georgetown University’s 2015 Transatlantic Policy Symposium, disagreements between the Europeans and the Americans seem to stem from what Sigmund Freud called, “the narcissism of the small differences”. It is precisely the minor differences in the European and American economies – who are broadly alike – that forms the basis of feelings of the hostility engendered by TTIP.

The world’s two largest economies do indeed share many features: they have maintained their share of the global economic output throughout the downturn and continue to have the highest per capita GDP. Both the US and European economies have structural similarities and enjoy a highly educated workforce. Although TTIP is no panacea for lingering problems in either economy, trade liberalization would allow countries to eliminate inefficiencies and in the case of Europe especially, address broad challenges of economic welfare and social unrest.

However, there seems to be a transatlantic need to find, and even exaggerate, sociological and economic differences in order to preserve a feeling of national unity and uniqueness. One senior policymaker recently described the persistent, if underlying, anti-Americanism that TTIP has again brought to the fore. The media latches on to these lesser differences, prejudicing the general population to issues that have yet to have any real-world implications. As Ambassador David O’Sullivan noted, “TTIP doesn’t exist. There is no TTIP.” Misrepresentation and fear are flooding the media and fueling public debate on a subject whose true substance has yet to be properly outlined. Intra-European issues of transparency and power politics have only added fuel to the fire.

How do transatlanticists counter this? By implementing innovating measures such as additional advisory committees that frequently provide advice and explain negotiations from a neutral position. As Dr. Susan Aaronson, Research Professor at George Washington University noted, a “feedback loop” needs to be put in place so that negotiators can build accountability in the eyes of the European and American publics. Publics are scared of something that is both new and that they do not fully understand, but before resorting to fear mongering and false press, “people should calm down a bit” and wait for an actual product to judge. Until then, we must lay the groundwork for reasoned debate.