October 24, 2016
Ceta - the next deadline
The newspapers are talking about a deadline, another one, but today is really only the day when Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker will inform the Canadians whether the planned EU/Canada summit scheduled for this Thursday will take place. This follows a series of dramatic meetings over the weekend. Negotiations between Paul Magnette, the Socialist prime minister of Wallonia, and Chrystia Freeland, Canada's trade minister, ended in acrimony on Friday. Martin Schulz followed with an attempt to broker a compromise on Saturday. As of this morning, it does not look good.
FAZ notes that one technical possibility for a compromise could be a commitment that the next technical revision of Ceta would include a revision of the disputed tribunals - arbitration courts that operate outside the legal system. We find it very doubtful that Magnette will go for that. To judge by some of his comments over the weekend, he did not sound like a man about to make a U-turn. He tweeted that it was a shame that the EU was putting so much more pressure on him than on those who block the fight against tax fraud.
Le Soir reports that Magnette felt deceived by the Commission, which kept on handing out new assurances on the interpretation of the investor tribunals. One source from the Walloon government is quoted by AFP as saying:
"They give us a disappointing document and in parallel we are given an ultimatum. This is very surprising. It prompts us to ask questions about the purpose... This document astonishes us insofar as it is far less advanced than those given on Friday and Saturday"
That document, sent out on Sunday, gave specific assurances about the role of the judges in the independent investor tribunals. They would be paid by the EU and Canada, and would be employed on a permanent basis.
Among the commentators, we noted Dani Rodrick, who writes that it is not helpful to complain about the Walloons. Much of the blame lies with policy elites and technocrats who pooh-poohed peoples' concerns with earlier trade agreements. They minimised distributional concerns, and oversold aggregate gains from trade deals.
"The opposition to trade deals is no longer solely about income losses. The standard remedy of compensation won't be enough -- even if carried out. It's about fairness, loss of control, and elites' loss of credibility. It hurts the cause of trade to pretend otherwise."
Hendrick Kafsack bemoans in FAZ that this was an unusually progressive trade deal. Canada agreed to production lines for not-hormone treated beef, and the tribunals are a good response to the legal difficulties investors faced abroad. He noted that Juncker should have declared Ceta EU business-only, which would have avoided national ratification procedure.
On Juncker: did he not try this at the June European Council, and was shouted down by the other heads of government? This mess is not Juncker's fault.