[A2k] IP-Watch: Europe Assesses “Changed World” In Trade Politics

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue Nov 15 11:36:46 PST 2016


Europe Assesses “Changed World” In Trade Politics


European Union trade politicians in several meetings this week in Brussels
reflected on the future of trade policy, also impacted by the US elections.
“It is a changed world, period,” Iuliu Winkler, vice-chair of the
parliamentary International Trade (INTA) Committee (European People’s
Party) said at the opening of the EU Trade Policy Day, expressing the
general sentiment. While many members of INTA committee underlined the need
of Europe to press ahead with their trade negotiations internationally,
those critical of an aggressive trade agenda were eager to have their
arguments not to be mixed with what was criticised as populist
fear-mongering against globalisation.

Karl Brauner, deputy-director of the World Trade Organization (WTO) said
trade policy today is blamed for all sorts of problems. “We have seen this
in the negotiations for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and
during the US election campaign,” Brauner said. He appealed to EU
politicians to continue to explain the pros and cons of bilateral and
multilateral trade agreements that he called potential building blocks for
the multilateral trade agenda. Only confronting critics “will allow us to
prevent unwanted protectionism,” he said.

The consensus over the positive effects of trade that had resulted in the
creation of EU’s single market, the negotiations at GATT (WTO predecessor
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and the WTO are now “frail”, said
Jeffrey Sachs, director at the International Monetary Fund’s offices in
Europe. “Opposition to TTIP today is even stronger, in light of the US
election results,” he said. Before that the Brexit was seen as a step away
from the free exchange of goods.” He confirmed: “Protectionist measures are
on the rise.”

“We have a problem with legitimacy,” acknowledged EU Trade Commissioner
Cecilia Malmstroem discussing the future trade agenda with INTA. There
would also be a discussion on how to tackle the disputes over competency
disputes for the trade agenda today at the Council of Trade Ministers

Moving Ahead without US in Trade?

Brauner warned during the discussion that closing markets is no answer to
fears of job loss like for example for “millions of truck drivers in the US
once lorries will start to cover long distances autonomously.” Trade policy
is neither to be blamed for that, nor could it help, he said. Instead, he
pointed to the high-tech race that is unforgiving to those not innovating.
Hoping to defend old technology with high tariffs or other protectionist
measures is a fallacy, he said.

The value-based trade agenda of the EU, which came at the sacrifice of
protracted negotiations, on the other hand will push trade to the next
level, he said. “I come not from the Free Trade Organisation, I come from
the World Trade Organization,” he said. Trade deals are about a “regulatory
framework that offers legal predictability.”

A stronger role of the EU in trade politics was also called for by Dutch
Liberal Mareitje Schaake, vice president of the EU-US delegation to the
European Parliament. Schaake, who on several occasions clearly expressed
her disappointment over the election of Donald Trump, who during the
campaign expressed a strong disregard for international agreements. “With
the US president-elect who has shown, at least in debates, disregard for
international laws, the focus should be more on Europe,” Schaake demanded.

In a press release, she warned the EU has to step up its own game with
regard to security: “European leaders need to put their differences aside
to make sure the EU member states, together, can play a role of
significance on the world stage, when necessary without the US.” With
regard to the development of international trade, she added: “The economic
consequences of protectionism will only become visible over the long term,
but will undoubtedly have a big negative impact on countries that are
highly dependent on trade, such as the Netherlands.” Member states of the
EU need to unite and continue with their trade negotiations, she argued.

Going ahead with trade policy in the Union was also supported by Joakim
Reiter, deputy secretary-general, United Nations Conference on Trade and
Development (UNCTAD). But Reiter warned that while talking about broader
regulatory issues within the trade deals must not result in the EU becoming
a missionary for regulation in developing countries.


The future of the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
(TTIP) was questioned by several members of Parliament. But as with a
potential effect of a potential US withdrawal from the Trade in Services
Agreement, EU officials and trade experts had no answers to the INTA
committee members.

The EU Commission originally had announced to spend the days of the
outgoing US administration to press on with TTIP negotiation. While the
ambitious TTIP timetable was seen by many observers just a bit too
ambitions before the election already, TISA is far advanced and had at
least a chance to be wrapped up in the coming months. But, for example for
the digital and e-commerce chapters, the US so far had been in the driver

Trade Sceptics and Populists

Several members of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) sharply
criticized their colleagues from the Left and Green Party Group for what
they said was practically siding with populists, asking for
re-nationalising their markets. Those still against CETA (Canada-EU Trade
Agreement) would support the protectionist camp. “Do we stand up and combat
against that?,” Swedish Conservative Christoph Fjellner ranted, also
blaming the CETA nay-sayers for being illiterate to read the answers to
their concerns. “It’s all in the text.”

Members from the Green and Left Party Groups on the other hand pointed to
specific issues they still have with CETA, for example the so called
negative lists, but mainly underlined the need to have a much broader
dialogue on old beliefs and a future consensus on trade and trade
negotiations. The European Parliament is in the process to make its
decision on CETA which will once more elicit controversy and still has to
assess the considerable number of 39 attached declarations from Council and
individual member states, including one that tries to carve out criminal
sanctions against IP-infringers in CETA as non-precedent-setting.

Tiziana Beghin, from the Italian Five Star Movement which in the European
Parliament is a member of the EFDD, the group that is home to populists
like French Front Nationale leader Marine Le Pen or Brexit driver Nigel
Farage, warned her colleagues against complaining about the Wallonian
(Belgian state) Parliament for blocking CETA in the last minute.

“This is a call for help from people that are hit by free trade
agreements,” she said and asked Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem in
turn if the EU still wants “to follow through with your dogma of free trade
despite Trump’s election.”

Separately, Prof. Joost Pauwelyn, co-director of the Graduate Institute of
Geneva’s Centre for Trade and Economic Integration, was quoted by the
Institute as saying we could expect from Trump’s election “less
negotiations and more disputes: a standstill on new trade agreements (no
ratification of TPP, TTIP in the freezer, WTO negotiations on hold) and
more unilateral measures by the US, especially against China.”

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