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.
Peter Gallagher is student of piano and photography. He was formerly a senior trade official of the Australian government. For some years after leaving government, he consulted to international organizations, governments and business groups on trade and public policy.
He teaches graduate classes at the University of Adelaide on trade research methods and the role of firms in trade and growth and tweets trade (and other) stuff from @pwgallagher