Overturning the establishment
Today was supposed to be the day when the EU/Canada trade deal known as CETA was due to have its signing ceremony but in a further setback for globalisation that has been delayed due to wranglings between the regions in federalist Belgium. After five years of negotiations between the EU and Canada, a deal was finally reached earlier this month which then needed ratification by all 28 governments of member states (including the UK which despite its referendum decision to leave the EU in June remains a member for the present time). Of all the states involved only Belgium could not because of opposition by regional governments. For the best part of a week, EU and Belgian government officials have been engaged in desperate negotiation to persuade two regional administrations in Belgium to accept the deal but without success. Without the agreement of all of its regional administrations, the Belgian government cannot sign the treaty and without Belgium’s signature the EU cannot proceed either. Last night the final attempt at persuasion failed and negotiations were suspended. However, at midday today, the Belgian prime minister reported that political leaders have reached a consensus in support of the deal. According to the BBC, Prime Minister Charles Michel has said, "an agreement" was found after the latest round of negotiations with Belgium's French-speaking communities who have held up the deal. Details have not yet been released as to what the agreement is and whether it involves concessions given to the regions by the Belgian government or if the treaty wording needs to be revised. If it is the latter then the Belgian deal would still have to be approved by the other 27 EU members. Following Brexit and preceding the possible election of Donald Trump as US President, this is the latest in a series of developments where electorates and even governments have ignored the will of the ‘establishment’. That said the UK referendum result is likely to result in more free trade deals albeit on a one to one basis, whilst the near derailing of the CETA talks and a Trump presidency are more protectionist. There is though a common thread in that nation states seem to be more prepared to follow an independent agenda rather than a collaborative one. t is something the IMO meeting in London and due to make important decisions that will impact on shipping’s economic viability might do well to heed.