The free trade agreement between Canada and the european Union has been completely blocked for a few days. The fault in… Wallonia. The opposition of the government and of the Parliament of the Wallonia prevented Belgium to sign “the comprehensive economic and trade agreement” between Canada and the EU. This would have commercial consequences and symbolic significance for the EU. The Ceta (Canada-EU Trade Agreement in English) will it be signed? On 27 October in the middle of the day, the Belgians are in any case agreed on a common position.
In the meantime, in view of the brakes against the belgian region, Justin Trudeau has cancelled his trip to the summit on 27 October with the EU. The Prime minister has remained in Ottawa for “private meetings”. the “Canada remains ready to sign this important agreement when Europe will be ready”, said for his part the minister of Trade asked by chrystia Freeland.
If despite this setback, Brussels has remained optimistic, is that waive this agreement, the text of which has been adopted for the past two years– would, in the opinion of all the european observers, a blow to the institutions of the european Union. It’s been seven years that the authorities of the two sides are negotiating for the treaty of free trade.
a Lot of work for…
“such A situation would have consequences on our other negotiations,” says Elvire Fabry, a senior researcher at the Think Tank Notre Europe and Institut Jacques Delors, quoting “those that the european Union is currently working with the Japan or Mercosur (the economic community which brings together twelve South American states). This would have a negative impact on the policy community and send a signal additional to a Europe that is not in a momentum of strategy economic. And it’s going to ask the question at our partners to work for years for agreements that do not take place.”
The question is also, among the representatives of the european Union. the “We are trying to reverse the image not terrible that it was offered, trying to sign when even the agreement in the coming days”, ” explains a diplomatic source in the World before the summit is cancelled. The daily questioned on the fact that the pressures could be “a willingness to hide a collective failure”. For his part, the president of the european Council Donald Tusk was even more alarmist after the european Council meeting of 21 October:
“Our citizens are more concerned about whether the trade agreements that we negotiate are in their best interest. And I fear that we may not be able to negotiate free-trade agreements if we prove that we are very serious about the protection of consumers, workers and european companies.”
Sebastian Dullien, a researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), Berlin, is not concerned with this situation, one reads in The Time. According to him, the danger will only appear if one of the two parties leaves the negotiation table, this is no longer the case with the agreement that seem to have found the belgian regions on the 27th of October.
“If this were to occur, the EU would be weakened in the bilateral trade negotiations. It does weigh more in the international fora, particularly the world trade Organization. She can also forget his ambition of soft power on the international scene. His power of conviction will be weakened.”
A symbolic withdrawal?
on the side of The opponents of free-trade agreements like the TTIP-TAFTA (the transatlantic treaty of free trade between the United States and the EU) and the Aacc, it also measures the impacts on european policy, with the hope that the operation evolves.
“Instead of living the termination of this agreement as a fallback or a calamity, he must rather live it as a chance, writes Amélie Canonne, president of the AITEC (international Association of technicians, experts and researchers) who led the european campaign of opposition to the transatlantic treaty. in This shows that there are a lot of people ready to engage in a public debate on the meaning and the role of trade policies and investment in the european Union. People like Paul Magnette [the minister-president of Wallonia, one of the regions which refused to grant the belgian federal government their powers to validate the Aacc, editor's note] are not opposed to any treaty, they just want the rights the environmental and social are at the centre. This is not the same thing!”
The world trade Organization (WTO) may not be able to conclude new multilateral agreements for years, and if this agreement was not concluded, it could open the “a new way”, according to the director of Libération Laurent Joffrin (including the one of 25 December presented Wallonia as an irreducible gallic village way Asterix):
“Not a retreat general behind-the-border or sovereignty, more or less shady, but a better democratic control and more attention be vigilant to the adverse effects of total freedom of trade.”
Europe in The face of itself
“It is the opportunity to take up this issue and put in place legitimate policies”, hope of his side, Amélie Canonne, without being totally convinced. The activist leading by example the statements by Guy Verhofstadt. The leader of the liberals and democrats in the european Parliament said on 25 October that the legal status of the treaty could be changed so that only the european institutions will be consulted on these subjects, and not the national representations of member States:
“This shows that this issue of the Aacc, it is that we need to return to the trade negotiations which are only of european powers.”
The issue of the Aacc is essential for the future of commercial treaties negotiated by the european Union. Currently, there are more than twenty, according to The World. The free trade treaty with Canada is, for the moment, “mixed agreement”. It must be approved by the european Parliament, the 28 member states and the thirty-eight national parliaments of Europe (some countries federalists, such as Belgium, have a number of parliaments). An agreement to “non-mixed”, on the other hand, is that “european skills” as the said Guy Verhofstadt and does not require the opinions of the national parliaments.
The decision of a joint agreement for the Aacc has been taken by Jean-Claude Juncker and the european Commission in July last to show white paw in the face of the growing opposition that developed in the face of the treaty between the EU and Canada, particularly in Germany (where opposition to the other treaty with the United States is large) or in Luxembourg. For Elvire Fabry, there is no risk that the european Union does not come on the basis of the agreement of the AACC: “Objectively, this would be very counter-productive. There would be the feeling of a bypass democratic.”
However, other arrangements could be defined as “non-mixed” in the future. For example, the agreement between the european Union and Singapore, was presented at its signature in 2013 as the “one of the trade agreements the most complete” ever signed, since 2014 a request for an opinion to the european Court of justice to determine whether the agreement should be mixed or not. And, therefore, it must be the subject of a ratification mainly by the Council of Europe and the european Parliament, or also by the national parliaments. The judgment should be in the beginning of 2017.
This would risk deepening the mistrust of the populations of the european Union towards the institutions. This is already the case for the specialist Elvire Fabry:
“there’s a kind of disproportion between the stake that is played on the Ceta and what the people aspire: a reappraisal of the commercial policy of the european Union and its way of negotiating.”
The forthcoming negotiations of trade agreements could also be limited to a “scope of negotiations regarding the exclusive competences at the european level”, says Elvire Fabry. Instead of going out to a generation of agreements “off”, the EU and its trading partners could rather “reduce the sail of these agreements” according to the researcher, if both parties know that there will be blockages systematic. The only topics placed on the table of the negotiations would therefore fall under the exclusive competence of the european Union. This would not address the concerns of opponents to the treaties.