French referendum makes WTO reforms more difficult

Jacques Chirac has been “on the phone”:http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1–0@2–631760,36–656285@51–656094,0.html to oth­er Euro­pean heads of state to dis­cuss the ‘mes­sage’ that he told a nation­al TV audi­ence on Sun­day night he’d ‘accept­ed’. But what was the mes­sage that the 10 per­cent ‘non’ mar­gin sent to France and to Europe? It’s about pro­tect­ing jobs in France, accord­ing to Le Monde (“La crainte pour l’emploi est la rai­son prin­ci­pale du rejet de la Con­sti­tu­tion”:http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1–0@2–631760,36–655963@51–656097,0.html) and the Econ­o­mist bq. ” … the more they debat­ed the con­sti­tu­tion, the more the French came to see it as a means for the EU’s bureau­crats and oth­er mem­ber coun­tries to impose ‘Anglo-Sax­on’ free-mar­ket poli­cies on France. So, vot­ing non sup­pos­ed­ly came to mean vot­ing to pro­tect French jobs, employ­ment rights and social ben­e­fits against com­pe­ti­tion from low-cost, low-tax, dereg­u­lat­ed coun­tries, includ­ing the EU’s new east­ern members.”(“Economist(link to this excerpt)”:http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=4028374&fsrc=RSS) There’s two obser­va­tions to make about this. First, it fun­da­men­tal­ly affects the dynam­ics in the EU’s 113 Com­mit­tee that coor­di­nates the core—and unchal­lenged—respon­si­bil­i­ty to man­age the exter­nal trade poli­cies of the twen­ty-five mem­ber Com­mu­ni­ty.  The Group was pre­pared to go along with the coup deliv­ered by for­mer Com­mis­sion­ers Lamy and Fis­chler on the “elim­i­na­tion of agri­cul­tur­al export subsidies(see: Pas­cal Takes a Punt)”:http://www.inquit.com/article/3/pascal-takes-a-punt (of which France is the great­est ben­e­fi­cia­ry). But they won’t be near­ly so adven­tur­ous in future deci­sions on trade pol­i­cy. Sec­ond, we’ve been here before. This is hard­ly the first time in EU his­to­ry that we’ve seen the forces of eco­nom­ic reac­tion enforce a retreat.  But it will take time—perhaps a cou­ple of years—for the EU to “recov­er its balance(as described in this FT commentary)”:http://news.ft.com/cms/s/1110d3da-d138-11d9-9c1d-00000e2511c8,_i_rssPage=6e6e833c-cbff-11d7-81c6-0820abe49a01.html after a regres­sive lurch like this. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, *time is not on our side in the WTO nego­ti­a­tions*, which have to end some­time in 2006 to remain with­in the hori­zons set by “the U.S. Pres­i­den­tial nego­ti­at­ing authority”:http://www.inquit.com/article/367/trade-and-the-g-w-bush-administration-bis that expires in June, 2007.

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