14 December 2020
Academics and civil society organisations are urging the Government to postpone a vote on a Canada-Europe trade agreement, which they warn would hinder progress on environmental and social protections.
The Dail is set to vote on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) tomorrow, a mixed agreement between the European Union and Canada with trade aspects separate from investment protection elements.
The trade component of the agreement has been in effect since 2017, and according to a 2019 report from the European Parliamentary Research Service, 98 per cent of tariff cuts have already taken place.
The vote tomorrow is in relation to special provisions in the agreement that would allow corporations to take legal action against states for laws or regulations that would impact future profits.
Of the hundreds of such cases taken globally, more than half of them were regarding state rules on environmental portection, and around two-thirds of them were ultimately won by corporations or led to states settlements, according to An Taisce.
“While ostensibly a Canada-Europe deal, CETA is seen as a Trojan Horse for US multinationals, who, as long as they have a Canadian subsidiary, can claim the same rights under CETA,” An Taisce said.
“Given the huge foreign direct investment by US companies into Ireland, this has seriously worrying implications. It is also unclear why Ireland would concedere to such provisions when it has been so successful in attracting such a high level of foreign direct investment,” the organistion added.
A risk to effective climate action
In a statement for Friends of the Earth, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientist Professor John Sweeney warned that CETA’s ratification was a risk to Ireland’s ambitions on “effective climate action”.
Through an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, Canadian firms in the market would have a right to argue for compensation under the terms of the agreement. If they were to be successful in specialised tribunals, corporations could be rewarded unlimited payments of compensation by the Irish government.
This could deter the state from imposing regulatory mechanisms, and this would create a “regulatory chill that would be a serious imposition on the ability of Ireland to manage its environmental protection,” according to Prof Sweeney.
If Ireland were to refuse to ratify the agreement following proper consideration, he notes, “this would have massive implications for such provisions in EU deals and would force a rethink which would be hugely positive for climate action all over the EU”.
Previous political opposition to the agreement
Green Party leader and current Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan has previously expressed his opposition to the agreement in 2017, telling The Green News that “the way it was centred around lobbying by big corporate interests rather than public interests, starts wrong”.
“The fact that the environmental certainty we want around protecting environmental rights is not clarified within the treaty is wrong,” he said.
Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan noted on Twitter that the Green Party in Programme for Government talks “negotiated very hard” to keep the agreement out of the document.