Protectionism Rising
A Knock-Out Punch to Free Trade?

The EU should allow national and regional parliaments input on ratifying free trade deals, the European Court of Justice’s advocate-general said on Wednesday. Politico EU reports:

In 2014, the European Commission asked the court to rule if the EU-Singapore trade agreement, and similar upcoming deals such as one with Japan, can be approved by EU governments in the Council and the European Parliament or whether some 38 national and regional parliaments must also be included in the ratification process.

In the opinion, “Advocate-General Eleanor Sharpston considers that the [Singapore trade agreement] can only be concluded by the EU and the member states acting jointly,” a press release said.

Provisions such as dispute settlement, certain parts of investment, or air and maritime transport services fall into a shared competence between the EU and its member countries, Sharpston argued.

Waiting for approval from regional groups makes it very difficult for the EU to negotiate trade deals. In October, Belgium’s Walloons nearly blocked a trade deal with Canada because of parochial concerns about agriculture and dispute resolution processes—roughly the equivalent of the State of Kansas holding up U.S. negotiations. If the European Commission follows the court’s ruling, which is non-binding, that would make every deal subject to the same restraints from regions across the continent.

On both sides of the Atlantic, the winds of nationalism and protectionism are pushing hard against free trade advocates. It remains to be seen if TTP will be revived in any form at all. We suspect the EU-U.S. TTIP negotiations probably don’t have a bright future either.

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