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The American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce hosted a special discussion on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) under the title TTIP: Opportunities and Prospects for the U.S. & European Economies on October 27, 2015 at the Athenaeum InterContinental Hotel. Guest speaker at the event was Mr. Kurt Tong, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Mr. Tong pointed out that TTIP is a major and important agreement with many issues on the table. The negotiations have been lengthy but he believes that the process will speed up, especially following the recent agreement on the TTP (TransPacific Trade Partnership). He acknowledged that both sides are committed to conclude this agreement, if possible, by the end of 2016, prior to the change of the U.S. Presidency. He also acknowledged that there are several critical differences between the U.S. and EU that demand a compromised approach by both sides.  In the end, he said, neither of the two continents desires to lower their existing high standards of living and, contrary to some skeptics, this agreement would tremendously benefit both sides. He said that TTIP, despite what some groups assert, would benefit SMEs and not only big corporations. The elimination of certain tariffs, the harmonization of standards and the removal of other impediments would reduce the daily operation cost for SME’s and it would help them compete more efficiently and better penetrate new markets.

TTIP would increase the already high level of FDI and trade in both continents and this would have a positive effect on both GDP and employment. Concentrating to Greece, he said that Greek exports to the U.S. account only 4.5% of the total exports—a low amount. In this respect, TTIP would help Greek companies to export more to the U.S., the biggest market in the world today. In addition, TTIP would contribute to the increase of investments into Greece and also to the improvement of its competitiveness.

In a question about the key impediments in the negotiations, Mr. Tong mentioned data protection, environmental regulations, foreign investment dispute resolution, and geographical indications. He claimed that at the 11th round of negotiations, to be held in Miami, both parties would try to resolve, or put on a strict timetable, most of these and other issues. He acknowledged the low level of public information concerning TTIP and he said that both sides are determined to increase the awareness on this agreement and to provide ample facts and figures. Regarding SMEs, he claimed that the basic challenge for SMEs is the limited access to information about the framework of TTIP, in contrast with multinational companies. The advantage of large companies is that they have international networks and they can more easily adjust to new, challenging environments. But this would change soon.

TTIP might be asymmetric for the signatory countries, as in trade some economies are more competitive and can take advantage of existing market conditions. However, the European market is large and competitive and, combined with the US market, the agreement will create more opportunities for maximizing  profits of their companies, independent of their size. Finally, TTIP could be more broad and include more countries, apart from the existing bodies, the U.S, and E.U.

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BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION

KURT TONG

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Kurt Tong has served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the Department of State since July 2014. Before joining the Bureau, Mr. Tong served for three years as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Tokyo, Japan. Prior to his time in Tokyo, he was the U.S. Ambassador for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), managing all aspects of U.S. participation in APEC, while concurrently serving as the Economic Coordinator for the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, organizing bureau-wide efforts on economic policy. Mr. Tong has been an economic affairs diplomat for the State Department since 1990, including service as Director for Asian Economic Affairs at the National Security Council from 2006 to 2008 and as Economic Minister-Counselor in Seoul from 2003 to 2006. Prior to that, he was Counselor for Environment, Science and Health in Beijing and served as Deputy Treasury Attaché in Tokyo and as an economic officer in Manila. Mr. Tong was a Visiting Scholar at the Tokyo University Faculty of Economics from 1995 to 1996. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he was an Associate with the Boston Consulting Group in Tokyo.  Mr. Tong holds a B.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and studied graduate-level economics at the U.S. Foreign Service Institute. He has also studied at the Beijing Institute of Education, Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies in Taipei, Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies in Tokyo, and International Christian University in Tokyo. Mr. Tong speaks and reads Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. He has published articles in Foreign Policy and Nihon Keizai Kenkyu (an academic journal of the Japan Center for Economic Research). He was born in Ohio and raised in Massachusetts, and enjoys soccer, tennis and other sports.

  • October 27, 2015
    3:30 pm - 5:30 pm

Event Location

Venue:  

Venue Phone: 00800 3122 1211

Address:
Syngrou Avenue 89-93, Athens11745