The Cable

The United States Isn’t The Only Country That Can’t Get a Deal With Europe Done

It now looks like Europe's trade deals with both Canada and the United States are dead.


Talks between the United States and Europe over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a massive trade deal that would create a free trade zone between America and the European Union, are on life support. As it turns out, Washington is not the only one who can’t get a deal done with the European Union.

Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland on Friday declared negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) — Canada and Europe’s version of TTIP — were all but dead. European officials say they are still hopeful the deal could be achieved, but Freeland appeared to quash any hopes that Canada would agree to Europe’s terms.

“It is evident to me, for Canada, the European Union is not capable right now to have an international agreement, even with a country that has European values like Canada,” Freeland said in Belgium Friday. She added that coming to an agreement is now “impossible.”

Apparently, the French-speaking southern Belgian region of Wallonia is the only holdout in approving the deal. Paul Magnette, the Minister-President of Wallonia, said his region was not prepared to make a decision on the agreement.

“I only asked for a bit more time, which was completely impossible for our Canadian partners,” Magnette reportedly said Friday. “I regret that, and would like to thank them for their constructive and cordial approach. Maybe, one day that will allow us to restart the talks.”

The failure of CETA comes as other global trade deals, which seemed inevitable just a year ago, are dying on the vine. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific nations, is on its last breath; Congressional leaders have told President Barack Obama it will not pass before he leaves office. The U.S./EU trade deal, TTIP, also appears to be going nowhere.

Part of the reason is a massive populist shift in Europe and the United States over the last year. Free traders have been drowned out by accusations that international trade deals kill jobs and manufacturing at home.

But the current failures of CETA and TTIP talks also reflect growing political dysfunction in Europe. Since Britain decided to leave the EU in June, long-simmering fault lines between members have emerged, skepticism about the European Union has spread, and many countries have turned inward.

Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas said after meeting with his European counterparts that the EU’s “credibility as a union is at stake” because of the state of the faltering trade talks.

“If Europe fails with CETA, it’s very difficult to imagine we can be successful with TTIP,” Roivas said. “This is very serious.”

Photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/Getty Images

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