Opposition politicians call for the Dail to reject “rotten” CETA trade deal

Published by Niall Sargent on

July 5th, 2017

The EU-Canada trade deal is a “rotten agreement” that undermines democracy and must be rejected by the Dail, oppositions TDs said yesterday as the Canadian Prime Minister began his tour of Ireland.

Speaking at a protest outside Government Buildings yesterday afternoon, politicians from the Green Party, Sinn Fein, and People Before Profit said that the deal will compromise laws to protect health, food standards, the environment, worker’s rights, and the rule of law.

The calls came just hours after both the Taoiseach and Mr Trudeau reiterated their support of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) at a meeting in Farmleigh House, Co Dublin.

The main issue of contention is the Investor Court Settlement (ICS) system to allow foreign corporations to sue Governments in a special arbitration system where state action impact on companies profitability or expectations of profit.

A number of expert bodies such as the European Association of Judges, the Deutsche Richtebund, ClientEarth and over a hundred law professors have highlighted issues with the legality of ICS which would fall outside of both the Irish and European legal systems.

The system was originally developed to protect the interests of western multinationals in Africa, Asia and Latin America in the post-colonial era, said protest organiser, Mark Cumming, who is also head of Comhlámh, the association of development workers.

He said that CETA would bring back “the worst of what we’ve seen happen in the global south”, adding that the ICS system will create a “regulatory chill” whereby governments hold back on bringing in regulation on health, labour and environmental issues for fear of being sued.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said that the ICS system would give big business power over governments and our courts and that the deal offers no certainty of protection of environmental rights.

“The way it was conducted, the way it was negotiated, the way that it was really centred around lobbying by big corporate interests rather than the public interest is wrong,” he added. “We need to negotiate trade and global cooperation in a better way and the EU should be standing for that.”

Also speaking at the protest, Independent Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan, TD said that she regularly holds parliamentary meetings to try and “dispel the myth” that CETA will lead to large economic growth. It was revealed in February that the Government has not conducted a cost-benefit analysis on the financial impact of the trade deal on Ireland.

She said that employment growth will also be minimal, quoting a finding from the Employment Committee of the European Parliament that employment rates will increase by a maximum of 0.018% over a 6 to 10 year period.

She also echoed Mr Ryan’s opinion on the ICS system, adding that the government have been “quite dismissive” of concerns from opposition politicians and civil society groups.

Calls for debate in the Dail have so far been road blocked by the Government, according to Maurice Quinlivan TD, Sinn Fein’s spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation.

“We want an opportunity to raise these concerns in the Dáil, to ensure citizens across Ireland are fully informed on what is included in this trade agreement, and challenge aspects that will hurt Irish interests,” he added.

He said that a number of his requests were rejected by the previous Minister for Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, while the new Minister, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald recently reaffirmed this stance.

Speaking at an Enterprise Ireland Entrepreneurship Event with Mr Trudeau yesterday, the Tánaiste said that the deal will “open new markets, break down barriers and provide new opportunities for business”.

Richard Boyd Barrett, TD, however, said that the deal will only benefit big multinational corporations and “accelerate the race to the bottom in terms of workers’ rights”.

The People Before Profit deputy added that politicians need to “ring the alarm bells” about CETA as it will not help ordinary people, the environment or democracy.

“We have to campaign for an absolute rejection of CETA and ensure we don’t ratify this rotten agreement that fundamentally undermines democracy, rights and standards,” he added.

Earlier this week a unique coalition of farming, business, trade union, civil society and environmental groups voiced their collective concern about CETA and called for the rejection of the deal by the Irish Government.

The groups highlighted Mr Trudeau’s visit as part of a publicit­­­­y stunt to boost support for CETA in advance of a vote by the Dáil to ratify the agreement.

Comhlámh’s Trade Justice Group will launch a new information guide to raise awareness about CETA and its potential impacts on Tuesday 11th July at 5:15 pm on Buswells Hotel, Co Dublin.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London