Paul Magnette – widely known for his affirmed position about the EU-Canada free-trade deal (CETA) -resented on Monday the 5th of December a new framework for negotiations concerning European economic and trade agreements.
It has been signed by 40 academics from Europe and across the Atlantic. Thomas Piketty, Philippe Aghion (Collège de France), Paul Craig (Oxford), László Andor (Budapest University), Philippe Maystadt (UCL), Philippe Van Parys and Jean-Pascal van Ypersele (UCL) have notably put their name on it.
« Signed by 40 international academics, the Namur Declaration aims at changing the way the European Union(EU) negotiates trade agreements, »
This proposition aims to become the standard in every negotiation of trade and economic treaties in which the EU and its member states are stakeholders. It claims to be inspired by the values of solidarity, democracy and progress that constitute the European Union
The declaration includes three chapters
- Respect for democratic procedures
One of the main criticisms of the CETA was the lack of transparency. Related to that issue; Magnette wants to insert more democracy and transparency in the international trade negotiation by organizing a prior debate within the national and European assembly – involving as many representatives of the civil society as possible. He also wants to add a detailed report of the talks during the negocaition.
The proposition also asked to discard the provisional application of agreements. It means that parliaments keep their full powers in the assent procedure of mixed agreements. This provisional application allowed “to apply a decision without the conclusion of each The CETA between Canada, of the one part, and the European Union and its Member States, of the other part (the « Agreement ») shall be applied on a provisional basis”
2.Compliance with socio-economic, sanitary and environmental legislation
Declaration de Namur asks the ratification of key instruments to be obligatory for the parties. (Paris climate agreement, the core ILO conventions e.g)
It also demands for a quantified fiscal and climate requirements. A very good idea but if we look back at the Volkswagen issue and how the Commission solved it, it may be tough to put in place. Indeed, Financial Times claimed that the Commission knew about it since 2013. Furthermore, after the scandal, the Commission softens plan for real-world pollution tests by allowing real-world NOx emissions to exceed limits by as much as 110% until January 2020 (because tests will be carried out on the road instead of in laboratories).It therefore seems unlikely that Magnette, could enforce a real fiscal and climate requirement.
Include standstill clauses is also required. Those would prevent the Parties from lowering their social, sanitary and environmental norms to promote exports and attract investment. It would also sanction those who try to lower their norm.
3. Guarantee public interests in the dispute resolution mechanism
They do not want to bring down method of arbitration but encourage the recourse to national & European courts. They add that “International dispute settlement mechanisms should be established only insofar as they have certain advantages (in terms of the uniform application of treaties, speed and qualification of judges”
The signatories of the Namur Declaration want those principles to ensure EU trade « does not serve private interests to the detriment of the public interest, » citing climate change and sustainable development, particularly in the most disadvantaged regions.
What did the commission said ?
Sent to Jean-Claude Juncker and Cecilia Malmström, but as the Parliament is the executive part, they transferred it to the agenda of the Commission and Council.
Parliament said Namur declaration has some interesting ideas without giving too much of its opinion.
It is too early to know if this democratic project will help the negotiating international trade deals to be more transparent and regulated. Europe should definitely carefully examine it before citizens lost faith in Europe.
To go futher :
Full document in English : here