Touch and go with Ceta

The question of whether the EU and Canada will sign the Ceta free trade agreement at the end of October is still open. The Walloon regional parliament rejected the deal on Friday. Wallonia's consent is required for Belgium's central government to sign the deal. The agreement's demise would be good news, some commentators believe. Others see Ceta as too important to fail.

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Libération (FR) /

Resistance to globalisation growing

Those who have the say in the EU should take the rejection of Ceta seriously, Libération warns:

“The new-generation agreements that harmonise norms are seen as weakening the authority of the state, and thus of the citizens, and as benefiting big business. Of course you can say that the rest of the planet has benefited a lot from globalisation. However the people of Europe don't vote in India or Brazil, but here and now, and egotism is the most shared global value. A belief in the benefits of free trade belongs to the very essence of the Union. But the Union and the governments it reflects must beware: the rejection of globalisation goes hand in hand with the rejection of Europe, perceived as its Trojan horse. The onward rush toward free trade will end at the wall of nationalism.”

Financial Times (GB) /

EU should abandon Ceta and TTIP plans

It wouldn't be such a bad thing at all if Ceta fails, writes columnist Wolfgang Münchau in the Financial Times:

“I believe some aspects of the deals, like investor tribunals, are undemocratic and at odds with European constitutional principles. ... My expectation is that the EU will attempt to rescue the deal, perhaps after a tactical retreat, and relaunch the monster at the next opportune moment. But it is not clear this will succeed. Ceta and TTIP have become two of the most toxic political issues of our time - like medium-range nuclear missiles in the 1980s or the Iraq war in the 2000s. The benefits - of which there are some - are just not worth the trouble.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

The lack of a proper debate

Demonstrators on the left and right protested against the planned Ceta trade deal in Warsaw on Saturday. Roman Imielski, the new head of the Gazeta Wyborcza website, laments that Ceta has become just a political plaything:

“I, personally, am in favour of signing the agreement. I believe the Western world must join forces economically to face the global challenges. But I take seriously the doubts of those who are afraid of the consequences of the agreements between the EU and Canada. A proper public debate about the advantages and disadvantages should be organised. Unfortunately our politicians prefer to exchange political blows with each other. This is easier for them than to clarify whether the deal would mean our markets would be flooded with genetically manipulated food, as many fear. The fact is that this wouldn't be the case because the quality standards of the individual countries would apply.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Exemplary reasonableness from Karlsruhe

Der Standard sees the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court as a vital attempt to defuse the debate over Ceta:

“'Karlsruhe' [the seat of the Court] has enormous clout not just in Germany. … It has a strong impact on the course other countries and EU institutions adopt. This has become clear in recent years after equally contentious rulings on saving the euro. The same approach could be taken with Ceta now: the calm processing of a highly complex EU agreement. This is all the more important given that the opposition to joint EU foreign trade is coming mainly from the economically powerful centre of the Union: from Germany and Austria, which are highly polarised and worked up about the issue as a result of well organised campaigns. It would do everyone good to step back and be reasonable: Karlsruhe has shown the way.”

Die Welt (DE) /

EU not reliable as a partner

The fact that the German Constitutional Court has not stopped the free trade agreement is cold comfort for Die Welt:

“The Ceta opponents have failed to persuade the highest court, meaning that the agreement could be signed at the EU-Canada summit and provisionally enter into force. That's good news. But the biggest obstacles for Ceta are yet to come. The agreement has to be ratified by 42 national legislatures in the EU member states. If just one votes against it, the agreement will fail. ... And then the rest of the world will wonder whether the European Union is capable of acting at all. Whether Europe can be a reliable partner. One of Ceta's key clauses aims at answering that very question.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

A ray of hope in the business world

The Dutch parliament will approve the Ceta free trade agreement this Thursday. De Volkskrant commends the move:

“The fact that rational decisions are increasingly failing in the political arena is partially the result of politicians being too scared to defend them publicly. This phenomenon is called fear of the voter, a by-product of populism. … Fortunately this is not the case now. … The objections of the opponents were taken into account in the negotiations on Ceta. The adjusted agreement can serve as a basis for other trade agreements. … Unfortunately global trade negotiations have reached an impasse. This is bad news above all for the poorest countries (for which activists used to demonstrate in the past). In a world where more and more players aren't sticking to the rules and mercantilism is spreading it would be a mockery to allow a trade deal in which major democratic states have reached clear agreements to fail.”

Duma (BG) /

Bulgaria's approval bought cheaply

It was shameful of the Bulgarian government to give its approval for Ceta in exchange for visa-free travel, the daily paper Duma fumes:

“When news of the gradual lifting of visa requirements for Bulgarians in Canada as of 1 May 2017 appeared in the media, no one suspected anything at first. But there are two sides to the story. True to the motto 'Always tell the truth, but never the whole truth', the government didn't tell us what price we would pay for this. The price is Bulgaria's signature on Ceta. … All seven million Bulgarians living in Bulgaria will have to pay for decades so that a few thousand of our fellow countrymen can travel freely to Canada. We don't even know how many will do this. … Estimates range from 30,000 to 150,000, but even if it's twice as many, seven million people here in Bulgaria will have to deal with the consequences of Ceta.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Free trade more important than power

In Germany the SPD party congress has approved a compromise deal over the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) while 88 percent of the members of its Austrian counterpart the SPÖ who took part in an online survey on Tuesday rejected it. Both votes were all about power politics, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung criticises:

“Is this about foreign trade and Ceta? Or about domestic politics and power? The SPD and the SPÖ, the social democratic ruling parties in Germany and Austria respectively, have paused to reflect on what their members think. … But in the end both parties want the same thing: to strengthen their leaders. Sigmar Gabriel really needs this at a time when Angela Merkel is down for the count. In Vienna, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern is looking for another populist topic to add to his tough stance on Turkey and the refugee crisis so that he can win back voters from the FPÖ. It's worrying to see both politicians trying to use Ceta to boost their profiles. Free trade is more important than retaining power - and it helps many more people.”

Libération (FR) /

Ceta undermines climate goals

Signing the Ceta free trade agreement would be a clear rejection of the resolutions taken at the Paris Climate Change Conference, a collective of NGOs writes in Libération:

“How are we to respect the goals of the Paris Agreement on limiting global warming if oil from the Canadian tar sands continues to be mined and imported en masse? This type of fuel generates 49 percent more CO2 emissions than conventional petroleum. But Ceta doesn't differentiate between dirty and renewable energies. One of its goals is to liberalise the energy trade between Canada and Europe. The Paris Agreement will encourage private investment in the extraction and transport of energy, including oil from the tar sands. But it foresees no exemptions that would allow a government to limit the exploitation or importation of fossil fuels.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Agreement would create jobs in Belgium

Belgium's vote in favour of Ceta threatens to be blocked by the regions of Brussels and Wallonia. Such a blockade would be irresponsible, criticises Hans Maertens, chairman of the Flemish employers' organisation Voka, in Le Soir:

“The arguments against the agreement are mostly unfounded. For instance the claim that Ceta will endanger democracy. A strange position, because it was the elected governments in the European Council that gave the European Commission the mandate to negotiate the deal. ... Let's hope that Brussels and Wallonia will quickly come to their senses. If they continue to block Ceta they will also block what they themselves are fighting for, namely the creation of many jobs in Wallonia and Brussels. In a period of economic uncertainty in which thousands of jobs are disappearing it would be irresponsible on the part of our politicians to block real opportunities for economic growth - and thus for the creation of jobs.”