• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Sweden: where even unions love free trade
The port of Gothenburg, Sweden. Photo: Jerker Andersson/imagebank.sweden.se

Sweden: where even unions love free trade

The Local · 8 Dec 2015, 09:53

Published: 08 Dec 2015 07:53 GMT+01:00
Updated: 08 Dec 2015 09:53 GMT+01:00

TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, is a hot topic in the EU lately.

In France, controversy over the deal has led to convulsions in the government, and German unions have been among those protesting against the deal on the streets of Berlin.

Meanwhile in Sweden, its hot because both labour unions and employers are actively fighting for it.

“Half of all products and services made in Sweden are exported,” Carola Lemne, CEO of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, tells The Local. “Free trade is therefore essential to the Swedish economy, growth and jobs.”

Outside of Europe, the United States is Sweden’s largest trading partner, she notes – and unions and industry leaders alike agree that opening the gateway to greater trade will benefit everyone long-term.

“We have a long tradition of constructive dialogue with the trade unions. We want to do what’s best for our respective members but also what’s best for Sweden, growth and jobs,” she says. “And we all agree that continued growth and more jobs is good for everyone.”

Susanne Lindberg Elmgren, Research Officer at the International Department of The Swedish Trade Union Confederation, agrees.

“We think that close cooperation and fewer barriers to trade and investment from both sides is good for Swedish workers and for the Swedish economy,” she explains. “Sweden is a small export-dependent country, and we would suffer from more protectionism.”

The proposed free trade agreement is intended to make trade between the United States and the EU much easier, reducing regulatory barriers, easing mutual recognition of safety standards, and ultimately promoting economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic, supporters argue.

Those supporters include the majority of Swedes. Research shows that for the Scandinavian nation, TTIP is basically a no-brainer. Swedens pro-free trade mentality has deep roots.

“In a recent survey conducted by Swedish Enterprise, 64 percent of the Swedish population supported TTIP and only 13 percent were against it,” Lemne says. 

“Ever since Sweden liberalized its business laws and adopted free trade policies about 150 years ago, Swedes have been pro free trade. A majority of the population understand that it’s thanks to trade that we are such a prosperous country today.”

Lindberg Elmgren adds that the debate has been blown out of proportion in many other countries.

“The media debate in some countries has become very polarized,” she says. “The effect of TTIP is sometimes exaggerated. TTIP is neither heaven nor hell.”

Some claim that the agreement will lead to millions of jobs created, while others say that it will undermine democracy, workersrights, or environmental regulations.

Elmgren says the effect will be more subtle than that – but critical nonetheless.

“Its hard to see a direct impact on Swedish workers on a day-to-day basis,” she says.

“But long-term for workers employed by Swedish companies with exports in the US, TTIP will create better conditions for the company to sell things, and by doing that they will create room for company development and a good basis for wage negotiations.”

In recent months hundreds of thousands of Germans have gathered to protest TTIP – but Elmgren says that the Swedish and German positions are closer than many people realize.

“German trade unions share our fundamental position – they want a sustainable TTIP,” she explains. “But TTIP has become a scapegoat in some countries, a scapegoat for broader criticism against the EU, national governments, and multinational enterprises.”

As Jennifer Gavito, US Consul General in Munich, told The Local earlier this year, Germany has much to win with TTIP.

"Support within Germany is lower than anywhere else in Europe, which is surprising because the Mittelstand (middle class) have more to gain than anyone else,” she said. “It’s based on emotions rather than facts.”

Carola Lemne points out that while some businesses might face increased competition in the short-term with new free trade agreements, everyone benefits long-term.

“For many of our members, doing business with the United States is both cumbersome and expensive. A majority of our member companies are small or medium-sized companies and to them it’s even more important that trade with the United States is made both simpler and less expensive.”

Small, innovative companies like Hövding and Svalson are just two examples.

“When competition is fair, Swedish companies often do well in export markets,” she says. “With TTIP our exports would increase and our economy would get a much needed vitamin injection.”

Swedish exports to the US amounts to 76 billion Swedish krona every year, Lemne says – and that number could be much greater, not just for Sweden, but for Germany, France, and all of the EU.

“Europe and the US are the world’s leading democratic regions and we have a lot in common,” she says. 

“We have the world’s largest trade flow between us and both have a lot to gain from further strengthening this, to promote growth, jobs, high standards and mutual security.”

This article was produced by The Local in partnership with Svenskt Näringsliv, The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Today's headlines
€5 to the coast? Ouibus rolls out new summer lines
Photo: Ouibus

Fancy heading to the coast for just €5 this summer?

Brexit
When France 'ignored' the result of an EU referendum
Demonstrators hold signs reading 'Respect our No, an other Europe is possible' after the EU constitution which was rejected in a referendum in 2005. Photo: AFP

The UK has voted to Leave the EU... but can the Brexit vote simply be ignored? Here's what happened in France's own EU referendum 11 years ago.

Tensions mount as thousands protest France's labour laws
French anti-riot police officers hold a man during a demonstration against controversial labour reforms, on June 28, 2016 on Bastille Square in Paris. Photo: AFP

Police are on high alert as tensions have begun to service during the latest labour reform protest in Paris.

The bright side of Brexit: The 'good news' for Brits in France
Photo: AFP

Well the UK voted to Leave the EU, the pound is tumbling, and stock markets have been in turmoil, but it's not all bad news for Brits living and working in France... right?

New map of France finalized as regions settle on names
Photo: AFP

It's done. The names have all been decided on after lots of arguing. Here's the new map of France.

Eiffel Tower closes as workers join latest strike
Photo: AFP

The Iron Lady is on strike on Tuesday.

Labour law protests
Paris: 2,500 police on alert for new labour law protest
Police carry out bag checks at Thursday's protest. Photo: AFP

Paris is on high alert on Tuesday as the city is set to play host to the 11th demonstration against new labour reform bill, which will be voted on by the Senate on the same day.

French police lifeguards get guns for summer beach patrol
Photo: AFP

Keep an eye out for life guards with guns on beaches in France this summer.

What will change in France from July 2016
Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

July will see some changes in France, and here's how you'll be affected.

France tells UK to hurry up and get on with EU divorce
Photo: AFP

"Don't waste any time," France tells UK. "We don't want anymore uncertainty."

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Mixed reaction from the French as UK votes for Brexit
National
How Brexit could now scupper that dream move to France
Brexit limbo: What happens next for Brits in France?
Gallery
Ten reasons why you should think about becoming French
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Analysis & Opinion
Brexit: Life for Brits in France 'will get more complicated'
Culture
20 English words that 'should be banished' from French
National
Best Briehaviour: A guide to French cheese etiquette
Features
And the best city in France for expats to live in is...?
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Society
Forget bikes, Paris is set to roll out scooter rentals
National
'We fear for our safety': French police feel the strain
Lifestyle
Why Rennes (and not Paris) is the best city in France for expats to live
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Why are the French losing appetite for baguettes?
Lifestyle
Naturism booms in France as young eager to ditch clothes
Lifestyle
Is working life better in London or Paris?
National
Dear Americans: Please come to Paris
National
It's official (kind of): French work fewest hours in EU
And the best football fans of Euro 2016 in France are?
National
Paris has wettest spring in 100 years and it's hitting morale
Police murders remind France of complexity of terror threat
National
IN PICTURES: Labour law protests in Paris turn ugly
National
Double murder just latest jihadist attack on French police and soldiers
International
French police appear unprepared for hooligan threat at Euro 2016
Sport
An A to Z guide of what to expect in France for Euro 2016
2,738
jobs available