Imagine if you would NAFTA being scuttled by the New York legislature because the deal wasn't in the Empire State's best interest. If we had the old Articles of Confederation still in effect, where things needed to pass unanimously that might well have happened.
That's what we've seen this week as the Walloon region of Belgium shot down a Canada-US trade deal. The deal needed the OK of all the EU countries and Belgium's federal system makes ail their regions sign off on a treaty, so a subset of one EU country shot down the deal.
For the deal to pass, Belgium's federal, regional and community bodies (seven in all) must give their approval.
Wallonia, a staunchly socialist region of 3.6 million people, has led objections to the deal, demanding stronger safeguards on labour, environmental and consumer standards.
As it turns out, Wallonia is something of the Rust Belt of Belgium.
During the heyday of the industrial revolution, Wallonia became the second most industrialised area in the world after Britain, thanks to its deposits of coal and iron, and was Belgium's richer half.
Since then, however, the tables have turned. Wallonia's smokestack industries collapsed as Flanders developed a dynamic services economy and the Flemish GDP roared ahead. The Walloons are now the poor relations.
Such areas of the US aren't fans of trade deals. I recall a pro-free-trade Democrat from the Akron get knocked off in a primary at the turn of the millennia because he supported NAFTA; redistricting had dumped Youngstown into his district in 2002 and the depressed one-time steel-town's protectionist streak ran Tom Sawyer (no kidding, that was his name) off.
Even though the folks in Wallonia have no beef with Canada to speak of, they have a beef with globalization. They also likely have a beef with being an economic backwater with nothing much to sell but a bit of gritty rust-belt chic.
Protectionism is likely not going to bring those factory jobs back, whether it be in Belgium or the US. Neither Trump or Clinton is likely to Make Youngstown Great Again, for those labor-intensive steel mills are economic and environmental dinosaurs, the latter will make them stay dead if Clinton wins and the former will do the trick in a more autarkic Trump reign.
People often want to go back to the good-old-days. However, time goes but one direction, for life has no rewind button. Striving to go back to the 50s or so, to an era where blue-collar labor was well-paid, would require taking the rest of the world back to the 1950s as well, destroying most of Europe and Japan's infrastructure and putting Maoist and their backward economics and goonishness in charge of China. The US was nearly the only game in town back then, so American industry thrived.
Not so much today. The rest of the world has caught up and the modern economy let Wallonia in its dust.