The difficult life of a trade dealer

Steven Hill is puzzled that the designers of CETA and other free trade agreements apparently do not comprehend how little credibility they have. The pressure on tiny Wallonia and its politicians was immense, as it was being blamed for making the EU a laughing stock. While this narrow interpretation has a ring of truth, it also is overly simplistic and reveals how little has been learned from the ongoing debate over the “winners and losers of globalization”. Jorgo Riss believes that the EU’s credibility does not depend on the adoption of CETA, but on fulfilling the commitments to the peoples of Europe laid out in the Treaties. The principles of democracy, the rule of law, the promotion of economic and social progress, sustainable development, and environmental protection are all key to EU credibility.

On Bruegel, Silvia Merler offers an interesting overview of many other commentaries on the CETA issue. Cecilia Bellora and Jean Fouré argue that the deal tries to address sensible issues with a spirit of fair reciprocity, but this appears not to be sufficient anymore in generating popular support. Dani Rodrik writes that trade now gets blamed for all kinds of ills even when this is not deserved, but the responsibility lies with elites who underplayed distributional concerns and oversold aggregate gains from trade deals. Amandine Crespy thinks that CETA is a sign of the EU’s democratic instability and proves that re-asserting national sovereignty over the domain of trade implies the right to a national veto over agreements. Bob Hancké argues that the vote in Namur needs to be taken seriously and stresses that underneath it all, the popular dissatisfaction with how globalization is playing out is strengthening. Alan Beattie, finally, claims that the CETA debacle underlines the dangers in giving national parliaments the power to block EU-wide trade deals, but it also shows how the Commission has made trade policy unnecessarily difficult.

Neoliberalism and the EU

Thomas Fazi observes that many invoke greater European integration as the way forward for the EU. A more democratic EU would need to be decoupled from neoliberalism, given that most shortcomings are the result of the neoliberal paradigm enforced by European institutions. Many of the criticisms made by civil society in recent years and initially ignored or dismissed by governments and mainstream academics are now increasingly shared by mainstream organizations (including the IMF). In opposition to this view, Philip Geddes argues that the less neoliberal EU that is likely to result from Brexit would not be a positive development because without London’s financial wizardry finance would be driven to New York, giving Europe even less control.

Thanos Skouras lament that the European Council abandoned a useful proposal within the Five President Report establishing a novel system of national competitiveness boards, which could be valuable in informing and triggering the Excessive Imbalance Procedure. Instead of national competitive boards, states are now to establish national productivity boards, an idea which is at best useless and at worst damaging, because a focus on productivity rather than competitiveness can encourage austerity policies and is bound to further distort the Eurozone’s flawed architecture.

This Ideas Monitor is by Carlo Burelli and Alexander Damiano Ricci

Photo Credits CC GLOBAL 2000

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