Will CETA advance the EU?
The European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday approved the free trade agreement between the EU and Canada. Legislation that will facilitate trade between the two entities is likely to take effect within a short period of time. The EU has resisted populist trends for the first time in a long while, some commentators write in delight. Others fear that Ceta will only boost populism.
Europe on the right path
The European Parliament's decision to approve Ceta is a step forwards, radio broadcaster Český rozhlas comments:
“If the individual countries now ratify the agreement we will have, after a long hiatus, an example of the populists not winning out. Of course we should no longer believe in the myth that free trade helps everyone. It takes jobs away from people. But more people are losing their jobs to automation and robots. … The issue of employment is no reason to stop free trade. That would result in a generalised process of impoverishment. In signing free trade deals Europe must continue to define clear rules unless it wants to end up doing business under Chinese conditions. Then the rules for protecting workers, consumers and the environment would be far worse than ours.”
This is precisely what strengthens populists
Ceta's advocates see the deal as a response to Trump's restrictive trade policy. Green MEPs Philippe Lamberts and Bart Staes reject this view in Le Vif/L'Express:
“Such reasoning is wrong because Donald Trump is the product of the neoliberal globalisation that has established itself against the will of most citizens. They feel helpless against the multinationals, over which governments seem to wield less and less influence. By voting for Trump these very same people wanted to turn the tables. Ceta's approval would make a similar scenario increasingly plausible in Europe. Is that what we want? In the 21st century the role of Europe, whose strength lies above all in its single market and its buying power, must be to regulate trade, protect its citizens and ensure that business interests destroy neither the people nor the environment.”
Politicians can no longer ignore the people
Even though the deal has now been signed the Ceta opponents have still achieved a significant victory, writes Dnevnik:
“The controversy over the advantages and disadvantages of Ceta shows one thing very clearly, namely that the EU Commission must take civil society's objections more seriously when negotiating future trade agreements. In this respect yesterday's defeat of the agreement's opponents is also a small victory. 3.5 million citizens have already signed the petition against Ceta and the TTIP deal between the EU and the US - that's almost seven percent of the EU's population. This sends a clear message to the EU Commission and the member states that they must change their direction. If they fail to find a different approach to trade agreements they themselves will help strengthen populism in Europe.”
Deal will have little impact on EU economy
The trade deal will have little impact on the economy of the EU, the Catholic portal Gość Niedzielny suspects:
“Opponents of the agreement criticise that Ceta will only benefit big companies and increase unemployment in Europe. Similar effects, they say, can be observed for example in the free trade zone between the US, Canada and Mexico. Nevertheless, compared with trade within the EU the volume of trade between Canada and Europe is relatively small. Consequently the deal with Canada isn't likely to have a significant impact on the European economy. Ceta's critics should be clear on the fact that the EU itself is similar in character. That is, it's a sort of free trade zone in which the economies of the member states are subject to certain regulations. Regulations over which the big companies have no influence whatsoever.”