Blowin’ against the Wind: the Future of EU trade Policy

On 21 November, U.S. President-elect Trump unveiled some of his plans for the first hundred days in office. Among the announced measures, there is most notably the decision to halt the progress of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. Indeed, throughout the recent presidential race, it appeared that all candidates assumed that advocating free trade would not go far with U.S. voters. At present, in the EU too the wind seems to be blowing in a similar direction. There appears to be a widespread and growing anti-free-trade sentiment in some parts of the population. Several slogans and arguments used in the campaign in favour of Brexit clearly witness this, and the recent experience of the EU with agreements such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement (AA), the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is another clear sign of this sentiment.

As one may expect in any democratic society, those anti-free-trade feelings inevitably find their way into the main political arena. When that happens, it is not uncommon that the political, economic and social arguments against free trade turn into legal arguments. For example, the ACTA was vetoed by the European Parliament even before the Court of Justice could rule, in the context of Opinion procedure 1/12, whether that agreement breached fundamental rights as the European Parliament feared (and as contested by the Commission). Similar issues were recently raised against CETA before the Bundesverfassungsgericht and during the ratification process by the Parliament of Wallonia.

Against this recent background, doubts as to the future of EU trade policy seem legitimate ...

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