Project #Finance: Is CETA triggering a new pattern of protectionism?

Teodor Kalpakchiev, (European Union Studies Series, 2016)

Originally posted for Euractiv:

Citizens’ concerns have triggered a new wave of anti-globalization sentiments in the EU, voiced adamantly by the Walloon regional government of Belgium, which accounts solely for 0.7% of EU’s population and 150 million Euros trade with Canada.

Despite the EU’s explicit competence in the trade domain, any agreement that is negotiated by the Commission and concluded by the European Parliament and the Council, needs to be ratified by the member states. It is contentious, however, why none of the German parliaments resorted to such a strong articulation of dissent.

The new trade deals are governed by the improved general system of preferences (GSP+) of the World Trade Organization, which sets new standards in labour rights and the protection of the environment. Participation is restricted only to countries, which are included in the list of market economies.

The EU’s DG Trade has paved a long way of signing Free Trade Agreements, some of the most notable ones with East Asia. Among these the EU-Korea FTA is deemed to be foundational for the level of requirements one would later aspire to.

The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with members of the eastern branch of the EU’s Neigbourhood policy, which has been struggling to redefine itself in response to a changing dynamic in the periphery, have given a further boost to EU’s trade policy by enacting conjoined governance councils, as well as a number of assessments and policy transfers to the Eastern Neighbours. The EU is thus hoping not only to decrease poverty, improve biosecurity and trigger a restructuring of the production towards efficiency, but also to improve policy-making.

The CETA has therefore benefited from a long and strenuous process of embedding the trade regime of EU with additional requirements, rules and governance mechanisms. It is deemed one of the advanced incidents of trade negotiations and the expectations that multinational companies would be able to sue states build over centuries are missing.

The disruption of the negotiation process can be understood also as a continuation of the discord with the transatlantic states as a result of Brexit. According to scholars and practitioners, the EU has a high leverage on existing standards, which might be blurred as a result of a prospective signature. The standstill could actually act as a way of showing that it is up to the old Continent whether or not global standardization would take place.

Another possibility is that the economic cycles have triggered a downturn in the belief that the strongest economic actors must necessarily be the biggest winners. Restrictions to trade volumes and tariff barriers might anyways be the case after Brexit. Apparently, under the surface, there is a discussion on whether or not it is high time that the EU sets a new world standard – protectionism not only of goods, but also of achievements in policy-making. The question is – will we have the resources to do so?


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