Rigid laws are a problem for everyone
Detailed trade agreements would appear to cause a problem insofar as they are difficult to change (not impossible, but in many cases much slower to change than say national or union legislation). Rigid legislation and difficult-to-change laws might cause a problem for enterprises operating in environments that change fast, like the ICT industry or commericial creative enterprises.
Unarguably, there is legal precedent for exporting legislation in trade agreements. Trade agreements in general have actually become more and more detailed over the last decades, up until now when they seem to even directly copy legislation from close economic and customs partnerships like the European Union.
Essentially, the CARIFORUM EPA is so detailed and so extensive it almost includes CARIFORUM in the European Union (see this reference). The only difference is basically less extensive capital flow regulation.
But well, it might have been better for us if CARIFORUM had joined the Union instead of signing the EPA. Why?
Because trade agreements take a long time to change. EU legislation takes a long time to change as well, sometimes up to six or seven years (refer back to the Telecoms package which was passed only last year after having been discussed since 2002), but they’re one step closer to ”the people” and the legislative process. A trade agreement under the Lisbon treaty will require a mandate from the Council and Parliament (that’s one democratic process), negotiation phase (could take however long – for EPAs they’ve been ongoing for more than 10 years), signing by the Council (reasonably quick) and ratification by the Parliament (which appears to take 6-9 months up to a year). If CARIFORUM was in the Union, the process of creating laws for us and them would be more transparent, and also there would be only one democratic process to take into consideration. More democracy, less time.
The detailed rules in a trade agreement are thus incredibly rigid. Even changing minor writings in the agreements will require re-opening of the negotiations, especially if the proposed change means the rules will not be as extensive in scope as the previous rules were.
For the ICT industry and the creative entrepreneurs in particular this must be catastrophic. They are operating in one of the fastest changing business environments today, so at least I am assuming that it would be in their interest to make sure the space in which they can operate can also be changed according to their preferred mode of operation reasonably quick.
With the CARIFORUM agreement, of course, that kind of space has already been locked up unless we can get rid of the agreement in its signed form or show that the agreement was wrong in the first place.
I’m reminded of a document from a while back about SME:s (”small and medium sized enterprises”) and IPR where it said SME:s (in so far as that is a term applicable to any enterprise) rarely compete via IPR but through adaptability. I can’t help but feel their ability to adapt is somehow connect to the ability to adapt of the legislation.
But I know very little about what it means to run a small business. If I could get further input on this, that would be awesome.