A trade deal between Canada and the European Union has lurched to an agreement after seven years in the making.
CETA – the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement – shows what negotiating with the European Union is like.
The EU likes to present a single face to the world, but the reality is the not only are member states in continual dispute with each other, but factions within those states are also constantly arguing as well.
The Canadians have a global reputation as easy people to deal with.
Yet the 3.2 million Walloons in Belgium almost scuppered the deal by taking the chance to blackmail the EU into giving guarantees that protect labour, environmental and consumer standards.
Irony of delay
The irony was the Walloon government had to rubberstamp CETA to allow the Belgian government to adopt the treaty, but held up progress because local representatives were concerned the treaty gave too much power to companies that could intimidate governments.
CETA should clear 98% of tariffs between Canada and Europe which cost businesses around 500 million euros a year.
Notably, the deal does not mean Canada must give any guarantees about freedom of movement of EU nationals.
Britain would hope for a similar trade agreement with Europe, but with improvements for financial and service businesses which are poorly treated under CETA, mainly because Canada and the EU trade goods rather than services.
Controlling the single market
The single market and controlling access to the 508 million businesses and consumers is the value of the EU.
If the EU was a business, that ‘database’ of consumers would be the component competitors would want to buy or access.
That’s why Britain leaving the EU is so devastating to politicians. With Britain gone, the path is clear for other partners to pack up and go, the single market shrinks and access becomes less attractive to other nations.
But with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker tight-lipped over Brexit negotiations and British prime Minister Theresa May playing her cards equally close to her chest, the outcome is unknown.
Juncker is said to have threatened the Walloon parliament with ‘consequences’ if they did not back down from blocking CETA, although he denies the claim.