On March 4, 2015, the Global Business and Economics Program hosted a EuroGrowth Conversation Series event focusing on the TTIP: Big Opportunities for Small Business report that the Atlantic Council released last year. The small, off-the-record roundtable brought together representatives from the largest business associations in each European country, known as EUROCHAMBRES.

The roundtable was gathered to discuss how the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) maximizes commercial opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and consumers in Europe. SMEs make up over 80 percent of European exporting companies, and over a third of the total value of exports. With TTIP, SMEs would have a large comparative advantage, since large multinational corporations already have considerable market access. As the negotiations progress and the public debate on TTIP ramps up, it is increasingly important for policymakers and the media to underline TTIP’s huge potential for both small businesses and consumers.

In this light, the conversation also focused on TTIP’s public image in Europe. For European SMEs, TTIP is currently an abstract concept that is dominated by non-governmental organizations. The largest concern voiced by the roundtable was that the European communication deficit would undermine the discourse surrounding the trade agreement. The current rhetoric surrounding TTIP is ostensibly negative, which oftentimes prevents SMEs from seeing the benefits TTIP could bring for them.

Attendees noted that transparency, both from the European Commission and the US Trade Representative’s office, is necessary to dispel conspiracy theories that surround the agreement. More specifically, investment protection should be addressed, as for many Europeans, ISDS embodies fears that their regulations will be forcibly lowered. European media must frame its argument by noting that TTIP will benefit SMEs through trade facilitation and regulatory cooperation.

This is a pivotal moment for TTIP. As the ninth round of negotiations approaches, it is imperative for policymakers, businesses, and the public to focus their arguments around facts, in order to orient the debate to constructive and pragmatic horizons. The EuroGrowth Conversation Series will continue to help inform the public discussion on issues like these in Washington and beyond as TTIP negotiations progress.

The EuroGrowth Conversation Series is a recurring discussion series at the Atlantic Council analyzing the prospects for European economic recovery and a forum for new and innovative ideas to be shared among leading policymakers, academics, and the private sector.