European Elections 2014 & International Trade Negotiations
In a series of snapshots, FTI Consulting is looking into different aspects of the elections and institutional changes to shed light on how this will influence our work. The third snapshot of this series examines how the elections and the changes in the European Commission could impact the EU’s ongoing trade negotiations.
Institutional reorganization and its implications
Trade negotiations are increasingly politicised and receive a lot of public attention. Gone are the times where negotiations were only carried out by the European Commission. Today many players are actively involved ranging from civil society organisations, industry associations and in particular the European Parliament (EP).
The Lisbon Treaty increased the powers of the EP in trade negotiations. It now has to give consent to trade agreements and has the right to be regularly informed about the negotiation status by the Commission. The MEPs use their new influence as illustrated by the rejection of the Counterfeiting Agreement (ACTA) or their involvement in the FTA with Colombia and Peru, which led to the inclusion of labour rights. Consequently the composition of the new Parliament and in particular of the Trade Committee (INTA) will impact future trade negotiations. In the run-up towards the elections, some of the issues in the FTAs could be leveraged in the election campaigns. Given the economic crisis, protectionist statements could resonate well among the electorate.
A concrete example of how the election can impact trade agreements, concerns the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Ghana. The EPA was concluded on a provisional basis in 2007, granting Ghana full access to the EU market. However, if the agreement is not signed and ratified by October 2014, the provisional arrangement will expire to the detriment of Ghana’s exports. Signature by the EU requires approval by the EP, whose work is suspended between April and August 2014 due to the elections. It will therefore be a tremendous challenge for Ghana to meet the deadline.