Heard in Europe

Lange joins MEP Ride 2011

There will be winners and losers in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), on both sides.

But one area where the EU is expected to do well is the automotive sector.

The US slaps hefty tariffs on incoming European motors. Europe has a fine tradition in the auto trade with brands such as Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Ducati, Lamborghini and Porsche gracing the garages of the global wealthy.

To be frank, US brands do not generally come so highly rated so it is no surprise that European car manufacturers were early starters in fully backing the trade deal.

“[TTIP] will increase trade, lower costs, create jobs and improve international competitiveness,” said Carlos Ghosn, president of the European Association of Automobile Manufacturers (ACEA) last week (6 February).

“We are calling for a comprehensive agreement to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers through regulatory convergence,” Ghosn added enthusiastically.

He will be pinning his hopes on progress taking place in closed off rooms between Commission officials and their counterparts from the US State Department and Department of Commerce. On both sides of the Atlantic, however, diplomats must have one eye over their shoulder at politicians who will ultimately agree any deal.

Arguably the most important politician in this process from the European side is little-known, laconic German rapporteur Bernd Lange. The chairman of the European Parliament’s trade committee, Lange represents two constituencies – as a German socialist – not entirely at peace with the deal.

Lange’s committee has signalled its opposition to an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause in the TTIP, meanwhile public opinion in Germany remains less favourable to the deal than in all other member states, apart from Austria.

Those fearing that Lange represents an obstacle to TTIP should relax, however, in light of the deal’s benefits to the auto sector, all of which must be good news for an MEP from car-loving Germany.

Especially an MEP with a known interest in wheels. Lange (photographed here on a BMW outside the Parliament) is known for his love of motorbikes.

He also represents Lower Saxony, the home of Wolfsburg’s famous Volkswagen headquarters – the world’s biggest car plant. The Volkswagen factory’s model range includes Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Ducati and Lamborghini. Not forgetting Porsche…

Photograph reproduced with permission from the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations (FEMA)

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