A skeptical France has encountered a big hurdle a few days before the start of a new round (the 14th of TTIP negotiations. According to the French Vice-Minister Matthias Fekl, “There is absolutely no chance to conclude an agreement by the end of Obama’s term.”
The vice-minister said Europe waited a long time for a signal that did not arrive. It is primarily a consequence of Brexit, because now the biggest sponsor of the agreement is out of the game. The E.U. trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem answered back and gave the other important news of the day: The free trade agreement between the E.U. and Canada, known as CETA, is legally active, exclusively under E.U. competence, but “since some member states do not agree to it,” the E.U. Commission proposed a shared competence ratification involving the national parliaments.
In the previous weeks, Germany had expressed its opposition to a single E.U. ratification. For now, “the invitation to member states to sign on quickly,” and that the trade agreement enters provisionally into force “as usual,” once they got the OK of the Council and the E.U. Parliament.
From the very first day of its implementation, almost all trade tariffs will be cleared; the agreement also provides for the protection of 40 Italian DOC products. The goal is to sign it formally at the E.U.-Canada Summit in October.
“The big risk,” that can lead to the “end of the E.U.’s trade policy as we know it,” comes from the member states, which “pollute this debate confusing the content of trade agreements with the malaise and anti-globalization feeling of the citizens,” Malmstroem said, attacking the 28 members that “instead of addressing these concerns of their citizens, use the CETA and other trade agreements, such as the TTIP that we are negotiating, to feed these feelings instead of showing proper leadership.”
That is why the Commission has decided to ratify the free trade agreement with Canada together with the national parliaments.
This news came almost at the same time as the announcement of the almost certain death of the TTIP negotiations, something also emphasized negatively by the Minister of Economic Development Carlo Calenda.
The minister argued that if the TTIP “breaks down it is because we spent too much time in negotiations,” and not because of the Brexit. Then he talked about CETA: “Now the treaty must be ratified by every parliament in Europe, and the non-ratification of just one will topple everything. This kills the European Union’s trade policy.”
Calenda has asked for at least the provisional implementation of the agreement: “Who else will ever sit at the table to negotiate with us?” wondered the minister, noting that to conclude the CETA agreement, it took eight years of negotiations.
These are good signs, however, for Eleonora Forenza, the Italian MEP and member of the Other Europe party, who told il manifesto: “The political reading is that after France’s statements, the positions have changed and we are at a point where a landslide has started, due to both the pressure of public opinion, as well as probably the result of Brexit. We are witnessing a change, it is clear. This isn’t just heading in the direction we want, but it has raised the question of consensus. Something has cracked, compared to the concern previously.”
Forenza on Tuesday was also the promoter of a major report adopted by the European Parliament on the E.U.’s trade policies and social and environmental standards, human rights and corporate responsibility.
“The report,” said Forenza, “is a strong warning to the European Parliament, which calls for legally binding respect for human, social and environmental rights in the E.U.’s international trade agreements.”
Provided also that the countries signatories of the trade agreements with the European Union should also be obliged to ratify and implement key conventions of the ILO’s work, and the need to maintain and strengthen the role of the ILO, during the trade agreements negotiations. Possibly including TTIP and TiSA.