TTIP, CETA, is Free Trade in great jeopardy?

Since the start of the talks, the two most significant Free Trade Agreements (FTA) projects – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union (EU) and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU – have triggered a larger than expected protest movement.

Quite quickly mobilized, millions of citizens have expressed through demonstrations and petitions their rejection of treaties they think could threaten their national economies and their public health, environmental norms. Too much confidentiality and the haste imposed by the US government and the European Commission (EC) have, despite warnings, strengthened mistrust so much that national governments were forced to get tougher, at least in their words.

One year ago, French Foreign Trade State Secretary Matthias Fekl warned about a “complete halt to (TTIP) negotiations”. Lately, Belgian Minister-President of Wallonia Paul Magnette and his group have opposed the signature of CETA, this way de facto preventing the EU from sealing an agreement at least for some time. Such twists have appeared quite common given the significance of the two trade deals and their implications. According to data collected by Cyceon, these twists don’t render in fact some popular rejection of free trade stricto sensu.

Too little transparency, the deep deficit of trust in the ability – if not the will – of the EU to defend Europe’s interests, the doubts voiced by the next US President – either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, and the growing sentiment that the current priority should be to solve current issues rather than committing to new strategic developments have been fueling the large contestation. The widespread idea according to which globalization has benefited just a few has generated increased suspicion as for everything that could accentuate it.

The lack of progressiveness, balance and reciprocity has aroused caution vis-à-vis free trade which a majority of Europeans deemed both necessary and being currently developed without their knowledge and to their detriment.