[A2k] The era of monolithic trade agreements is over?
ante at ffii.org
Sun Feb 3 10:20:35 PST 2013
The era of monolithic trade agreements is over?
February 3, 2013
Tuesday EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht will travel to
Washington to discuss the possibilities to start negotiations on
an EU – US trade agreement. The industry already dreams of
setting a gold standard in areas such as intellectual property
protection. Does that sound familiar? Yes, it does. It sounds
like ACTA, the agreement overwhelmingly voted down last July in
the European Parliament.
ACTA was, in almost all aspects, a drama, out of touch with our
societies. In a series of posts on this blog, I will give some
thoughts on how to do things better. Today: the era of
monolithic trade agreements is over?
Rewriting our laws in secrecy
On average, the trade tariffs between the EU and the US are
already low (under 3%). To enlarge trade, progress will have to
come from the tackling of non-tariff barriers. The EU commission
calls them behind the border regulatory restrictions. Such
behind the border regulatory restrictions are, in plain words,
our laws. We will have to rewrite our laws to enlarge trade with
There will be tough choices to make. As Reuters explains, a
“trade deal could be a lot for Europe to swallow”: “Can
Europeans, who have balked for years at many U.S. food imports,
accept a free trade agreement with the United States that opens
the door for imports of genetically modified crops and chickens
cleaned with chlorine?” See also Glyn Moody, After ACTA:
Trans-Atlantic Partnership Agreement.
The point I want to make here, is that the trade negotiators
will discuss changing our laws behind closed doors. Only company
lobbyists and some members of parliaments will have access to
the negotiation texts. The outcome will be one big package, say
1000 pages, to be voted in one vote, yes or no. The EU is in a
dire state, the commission desperately wants a success. The
pressure on the European Parliament to vote yes will be huge.
What will happen will not be a feast of democracy.
A deep integration of our laws, negotiated in secrecy, with only
access to some, voted in once, is not compatible with democracy
– even if the final vote is an open parliamentary vote.
We can do better. On some issues, the EU and US will be able to
reach agreement rather easily. There is no need for secrecy
here. Negotiate and conclude a light agreement. This can be done
On other issues, agreement will be much harder to reach. As
these are sensitive issues, secrecy is unacceptable here. The
negotiators will have to discuss these issues in the open. They
can then present them to parliaments in the smallest possible
balanced chunks. This will provide a much higher legitimacy. The
Lisbon Treaty makes this possible. Democracy necessitates that
the era of monolithic trade agreements is over.
Tomorrow, the second blog, on expropriation trolls.
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