CETA is a major success story for the EU

The success of CETA has given the EU a boost for future trade and political deals, writes Charles Tannock.

Charles Tannock | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Charles Tannock

04 Apr 2017

CETA, and its lesser-known but by no means less important companion political agreement, the strategic partnership agreement, represent a major success story for the EU - both in real terms and symbolically.

CETA now represents the benchmark for all future EU deep and comprehensive free trade agreements (DCFTAs), as well as for the many existing trade deals that the EU is seeking to upgrade. Just as CETA is successfully brought to a close, all eyes are now looking to Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

One of the sad and bitter ironies underpinning this for me as a British MEP is that just as many of these highly ambitious trade deals negotiated by the EU begin to take e­ffect, the UK will be exiting the club as part of the regrettable result of last year’s Brexit referendum.

CETA represents the value added brought by the EU in leveraging its influence as a combined bloc and illustrates the benefits that such collaboration brings.

It also disproves arguments that suggested that the multilateral model of the EU prevents trade deals being concluded with more advanced economies.

I am always keen, however, to point to the existing success of concluding the FTA with South Korea, signed back in 2011, and the trade agreements signed with other multilateral blocks, such as the association agreement with Central America agreed in 2012 and the negotiations for a future one with Mercosur.

It had been hoped that the success of CETA could provide the boost needed to reinvigorate talks on the much-publicised FTA with the US, TTIP.

However the election of Donald Trump is discouraging, given many of his comments during the campaign and his protectionist leanings. As the ‘America First’ rhetoric starts to take shape, its future is surely in doubt.

The trans-Pacific partnership agreement has already been scrapped, heavy budget cuts to the US State Department and America’s financial contributions to the UN have been mooted, and the benefits and principles underpinning NAFTA continue to be questioned. This suggests that campaign rhetoric is translating into isolationist policy in government.

Nevertheless, it is clear that any failure to enter negotiations on this front will rest with the US administration, rather than the EU.

Questioning the merits of globalisation and liberal free trade is by no means unique to the US. Populist parties both in Europe and beyond are beginning to tap into the fears of wage stagnation and job insecurity felt by many in the western world following the 2008 financial crisis.

Despite much of the pro-free trade rhetoric espoused by the political class supporting Brexit in the UK, there is no doubt that the vote for leaving the EU was won on the basis of appealing to more protectionist reactions.

Another of the benefits of the EU approach to trade is the link increasingly seen between the trading aspects of the FTAs combined with the soft power ties seen in the companion political agreements.

For more advanced economies, this often takes the form of working together at multilateral level via regular joint-ministerial meetings to fight climate change, working together on intelligence sharing in the fight against international crime and terrorism, and shared foreign policy goals, while development goals and capacity building is emphasised for developing economies.

CETA and the Canada-EU SPA have illustrated that in spite some hurdles, the enthusiasm for ambitious free trade agreements is alive and well in the EU and that such ambition can be matched by results.


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