Don’t hold your breath on TAFTA
Glenn Reynolds links to a John O’Sullivan column on the fallout from the French rejection of the EU constitution. It’s an odd column, in that carries a lot of normative appeal to me but doesn’t make complete sense. O’Sullivan correctly brings up a worrisome byproduct of the French rejection — the effect on Turkey: Since ...
Glenn Reynolds links to a John O'Sullivan column on the fallout from the French rejection of the EU constitution. It's an odd column, in that carries a lot of normative appeal to me but doesn't make complete sense. O'Sullivan correctly brings up a worrisome byproduct of the French rejection -- the effect on Turkey:
Glenn Reynolds links to a John O’Sullivan column on the fallout from the French rejection of the EU constitution. It’s an odd column, in that carries a lot of normative appeal to me but doesn’t make complete sense. O’Sullivan correctly brings up a worrisome byproduct of the French rejection — the effect on Turkey:
Since the Turks have been seeking entry — and getting half-promises of it — from the Europeans since the early 1960s, rejection is likely to create a series of international crises. In Turkey the reaction would be profound and bitter. The Turks would reasonably feel that they had carried out every reform requested by Brussels, significantly altering their political, social and economic life, and still have been rejected. Both the major parties — the traditional Kemalist opposition and the new Islamic conservative government — would be weakened since both supported the European orientation of Turkish foreign policy. The forces likely to be strengthened by rejection are the Turkish army, extreme Turkish nationalists and Islamist fundamentalists. Since these are all radically opposed to each other — the army being secular and pro-American, the Islamists in favor of a Turkish identity rooted in Islam and closer links with the Arab world, and the extreme nationalists, well, extremely nationalist — there will probably be a series of crises in Ankara until a new political status quo is established.
No disagreement with that analysis. Then things get very strange:
“There is no Plan B” — Plan A being Turkey’s EU admission. And Washington echoes the same slogan because it strongly supports the Turkish application. In reality there is always a Plan B, even if the politicians avoid considering it until Plan A has collapsed. Under this particular Plan B, the United States would rescue Turkey and the EU from their joint crises while also advancing U.S. interests in transatlantic integration. It would work as follows: First, the EU and the United States (together with its partners in NAFTA) would merge their markets to form TAFTA — or a transatlantic free trade area. Second, they would invite all the existing European countries not in the EU, including Turkey, Norway and Switzerland, to join this enlarged TAFTA. (Ukraine, Russia and Latin American countries outside NATFA would be eligible to join once they met criteria similar to those required for EU entry.) Third, this TAFTA would establish joint procedures for harmonizing existing and new regulations between NAFTA, the EU and non-EU states,. Fourth, free movement of labor would not be a provision in TAFTA, but there would be preferential immigration rules between members. Laid out in this way, such a Plan B inevitably sounds utopian. Many of its individual features, however, have been widely discussed for years. Indeed, a full-scale EU-U.S. free trade area almost came about a decade ago. At the time it was vetoed by the French. But Europeans might now see the value of a program for economic integration that does not involve free immigration — but that would offer Turkey a solid substitute for EU membership, mollify the Islamic world, and build an long-term economic bridge to Russia, North Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. And in their currently shaken state, even the French might be prepared to accept American leadership out of the crisis — so, Condi, act quickly.
Okaaayyyyy…. just a few questions for O’Sullivan:
1) If a large percentage of the French opposition to the constitution was that it was too liberal, how is a free trade area with the United States going to be viewed by the French? 2) If Americans are hostile to the Kennedy-McCain version of immigration refor, how do you think Americans will react to any arrangement whereby Mexicans would receive “preferential immigration rules”? 3) Would anyone on either side of the Atlantic be comfortable with an arangement whereby there would be “joint procedures for harmonizing existing and new regulations between NAFTA, the EU and non-EU states”? How does O’Sullivan think that would work with, say, genetically modified foods?
To be clear, I think O’Sullivan’s proposal has a lot of merit on substance — I just don’t think it has any hope of succeeding at the current political moment. I am curious whether there would be support in the U.S. for something a bit simpler — a free trade agreement with Turkey. Comment away!!
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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