Juncker's about-face on CETA
After the outcry over Juncker's tone-deaf peddling of CETA the European Commission quickly backpedaled last Tuesday:
The deal is set to benefit people and businesses – big and small – across Europe as of the first day of its implementation. To allow for a swift signature and provisional application, so that the expected benefits are reaped without unnecessary delay, the Commission has decided to propose CETA as 'mixed' agreement. This is without prejudice to its legal view, as expressed in a case currently being examined by the European Court of Justice concerning the trade deal reached between the EU and Singapore. With this step, the Commission makes its contribution for the deal to be signed during the next EU-Canada Summit, in October.
A mixed agreement must be ratified by each of the EU member states. The Commission proposes to "provisionally apply" CETA pending ratification:
Following a decision by the Council, it will be possible to provisionally apply CETA. Its full entering into force will be subject to the conclusion by the EU, through a Council decision with the consent of the European Parliament, and by all Member States through the relevant national ratification procedures.
How any member state can hope to get rid of CETA once it's been provisionally applied is a mystery of course so it appears that the Commission views ratification by the member states as a rubber-stamping formality without any substance.
It's not hard to understand why. CETA and it's bigger cousin TTIP simply wouldn't survive substantial scrutiny. This is why they have to be negotiated in secret and then ratcheted into place, preferably when no-one is looking. Unsurprisingly this makes a lot of people very angry:
Some of the most vocal opposition to the commission's intended approach came from German centre-left leader Sigmar Gabriel, who warned that denying national parliaments the right to ratify the trade deal, known as CETA, would fuel already virulent opposition to the accord among anti-globalisation activists. Others have expressed fears that it would be an open goal for anti-EU parties, such as France’s Front National, which claim that the EU is fundamentally undemocratic and bypasses citizens in its decision-making. [...]
Still, the climbdown is a sign of Mr Juncker’s limited willingness to take on national capitals when the wounds of the UK Brexit vote are still raw and criticism rising over his approach, particularly from some eastern European ministers still riled over his backing for mandatory refugee quotas during the migration crisis. Mr Juncker has faced calls to resign from the Czech foreign minister as well as criticism from Estonia and Poland in the wake of the UK vote.
CETA, like its cousins TTP and TTIP, would cement into place the right of multi-national corporations to dictate to governments without any democratic input. This would be irreversible. Worse, the approval of CETA would provide fresh momentum for TPP and TTIP. We have no time to waste.
The bumbling flip-flop on CETA is representative of larger problems in the Commission. FAZ observes that Juncker's promise to head a "political" Commission so far has succeeded only in giving politics a bad name:
Politisch wollte die EU-Kommission des Jean-Claude Juncker sein, nicht bürokratisch. [...] „Politisch“ ist in Brüssel zum Synonym für orientierungslos, unberechenbar, beliebig geworden. [...]
Eine Woche später verkündete die Kommission, sie stufe Ceta doch als „gemischtes Abkommen“ ein, die nationalen Parlamente sollten mitentscheiden. Das ist mit „politisch“ wohl gemeint: Heute so, morgen wieder anders. Und Plan B? Nur so eine Idee.
Still, Some Canadians remain politely hopeful:
A decision by the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to abandon plans for fast-track approval of the EU-Canada trade deal in favour of ratification by national parliaments will not significantly delay the implementation of the landmark deal, says a Canadian expert [Patrick Leblond].
Canadian Trade Minister Freeland is downright thrilled. Everything is going swimmingly, really:
Canada’s International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said the decision by Juncker “was anticipated and will keep CETA on track.”
“I am very pleased that the EU Commission is today presenting CETA to the European Union’s member states,” Freeland said in an emailed statement to RCI. “It is going forward as a mixed agreement — meaning Europeans at the national level will have a democratic say on this agreement, just as CETA will be debated in our own Parliament.”
Others are not so sanguine:
Britain's decision to leave the European Union could jeopardize a massive free trade deal with Canada because it upsets a "fine balance" that took years to negotiate, says the Conservative politician [Ed Fast] who oversaw the painstaking talks. [...]
"Despite the assurances Minister Freeland may have received from her UK counterpart, I think she is being hopelessly optimistic about the timelines about getting this agreement ratified," said Fast, who presided over four of the seven years of CETA's negotiation.
Fast said Britain was the single most important country in helping get the deal done. [...]
Only a detailed study, he said, can determine whether Britain's absence from the trade grouping undermines concessions Canada made in order to win greater access for goods and services in the larger EU bloc.