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Appeasing the EU
The Return of Little Europe

As America’s TTIP trade deal with Europe continues to languish in negotiations, the EU has also put the brakes on a pending trade deal with another massive North American market: Canada. Reuters reports:

The European Commission bowed to pressure to give Europe’s parliaments the right to ratify a landmark free-trade deal with Canada, a decision meant to address public concerns but which could wreck Europe’s broader trade strategy.

In the face of popular suspicion about secretive trade deals benefiting big companies, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker retreated from his position that the multi-billion-euro pact would only need support from European Union governments and the European Parliament to go ahead. […]

The 1,600-page text, which goes beyond tariffs to reduce transatlantic barriers to business, will now be sent to each of the EU’s 28 national parliaments, and in some cases, such as Belgium, to regional parliaments as well.

You heard that right—the Walloons now have a veto on pan-European trade policy. Canada’s deal is not dead yet but its prospects of passage are much more dire than they were a week ago. Approval will certainly go slowly and Canada’s diplomats are in for a major headache as they will have to coax little-known lawmakers in national and regional capitals to vote for the deal. A column in Canada’s Financial Post captures Canada’s understandable frustration at the EU’s hypocrisy:

[T]here is a lesson to be learned from the European Commission’s decision to pass the buck along a bit. After days of ritual condemnation of Little England as a bigoted anti-globalization nation, CETA [Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, the Canada-EU agreement] offers a handy reminder of the existence of Little Europe. When it comes to globalization, free trade and the movement of investment and people, every nation — not just Britain — finds reasons to impose limits.

Yes, of course the EU requires buy-in from national governments. But where supranational organizations like the EU actually have a constructive role to play is in streamlining the adoption of deals like this one precisely so that they don’t have to go through dozens of national and subnational legislatures at the expense of lawmakers’ time and taxpayers’ money. If your economic union can’t negotiate trade deals with the rest of the world on behalf of its member states, what’s the point of it? 

Meanwhile, the EU will continue to tackle the really important stuff, like dictating the curvature of bananas and disputing water’s effectiveness in combatting dehydration. How could anyone want to leave?

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