‘Ottawa’ Terence Corcoran: By impeding the Canada-EU Trade Deal, Europe Shows it can be ‘little,’ too
It would be unwise to over-spin the consequences of the European Commission’s decision Tuesday to send the Canada-EU free-trade deal to its 28 member states and the European parliament for approval. While there are risks the historic agreement could be scuttled, chances are greater that CETA — as the agreement is known — will eventually succeed.
Trade experts say 95 per cent of CETA — the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement — is within the commission’s authority, but member states retain some role in areas such as investment. Some countries, including Germany, may object to certain CETA provisions, but these disagreements should not kill the precedent-setting trade deal negotiated by the Harper Conservatives, now backed by the Trudeau Liberals.
In the meantime, though, there is a lesson to be learned from the European Commission’s decision to pass the buck along a bit. After days of ritual condemnation of Little England as a bigoted anti-globalization nation, CETA offers a handy reminder of the existence of Little Europe. When it comes to globalization, free trade and the movement of investment and people, every nation — not just Britain — finds reasons to impose limits.
In CETA, agriculture protections remain, foreign-investment reviews stay in place, skilled Canadian professionals require special permissions to work in Europe. CETA, in short, contains many of the limits Brexiters are accused (often wrongly) of trying to impose on Britain.
It has been easy to portray British voters as xenophobic and racist for wanting to curb the free flow of people into Britain from Europe. But Brexit backers are far from alone in wanting to keep tight control over national borders. The Canada-EU trade deal does not open Canada to the free flow of Europeans into the Canadian workforce, nor will Canadians be able to fly to France seeking a job.
While the U.K. gets trashed in the media and by politicians as a villain, every other nation, including in the EU, is filled with barriers and border restrictions — especially Canada and the U.S.
When President Obama spoke in Ottawa last week, he talked of free trade and the benefits of immigration. “The vibrancy of our economies are enhanced by the addition of new striving immigrants. But this is not just a matter of economics. Refugees escape barrel bombs and torture, migrants cross deserts and seas seeking a better life.” But North America is no EU when it comes to borders. There is no free movement of Americans, Mexicans or Canadians. Canadians cannot hop a plane to Atlanta to find a job. Mexicans cannot land in Toronto as free citizens in search of a new life. Americans cannot instantly settle in Montreal.To some degree, what U.K. Brexiters want is exactly what Canada, Mexico and the U.S. have. As Obama said, “We can insist that the process is orderly. We can insist that our security is preserved; (that) ‘borders’ means something.” As Americans and Canadians, Obama said, “we will continue to welcome refugees, and we can ensure that we’re doing so in a way that maintains our security. We can and we will do both.”
Except, of course, that North America’s borders are not open to refugees beyond the few that have been allowed in so far and the few others that might be permitted to arrive in the future.
In Germany, meanwhile, there are hints of petty but typically nationalist concerns about the US$27-billion London Stock Exchange’s proposed merger with the Frankfurt-based Deutsche Boerse. LSE shareholders this week voted 99.9 per cent in favour of the merger. Deutsche Boerse shareholders are to vote later in the year. Each exchange will retain its own headquarters, but a German regulator has objected to the fact that the holding company will be based in London. “It is hard to imagine that the most important exchange venue in the eurozone would be steered from a headquarters outside the EU.” Why is that so hard to imagine?
Every nation, including in the EU, is filled with barriers
At least the LSE-Deutsche merger appears to have been given the green light by shareholders and officials, which is more than can be said of the 2011 LSE plan to merge with the Toronto Stock Exchange. That plan was killed by Little Canada in a fit of nationalist sentiment and protectionism in 2011.
The point is that the persistent attacks on Britain over the last week wrongly and dangerously portray the Brexit vote as an irrational scream against globalization and free trade. There is ample evidence that many in Britain see greater global trade and investment opportunities outside the EU. That has been the stated objective of the core Brexit economic theorists.
Only the mischievous would engage in the deceptive idea that the EU is a smooth-running agglomeration of nations whose flaws are minor and easily overcome. As I write this, a new book has landed from Princeton: The Euro and the Battle of Ideas, by economists Markus Brunnermeier, Harold James and Jean-Pierre Landau. Europe is clearly in crisis, with different fundamental national visions in constant collision over economic and political processes and objectives. The three economists seem optimistic, but they make it clear that Brexit voters are not the real problem.
There’s more than a little Little in Europe.