Dáil debates

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

10:10 am

Photo of Mick WallaceMick Wallace (Wexford, Independent)
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7. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if the purpose of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is to remove the regulatory differences between the U.S. and European nations; his view on the the way it will impact on jobs here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50563/13]

Photo of Mick WallaceMick Wallace (Wexford, Independent)
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According to the bodies concerned, the main objective of the TTIP is to remove as many trade barriers as possible to ensure the freedom of movement of trade and investment, the argument being that there are too many regulatory systems on both sides of the Atlantic. The European Commission claims the agreement will lead to savings of moneys and jobs. One concerning aspect of the agreement is the power it will give to transnational corporations to sue national governments for what they see as potential infringements of their intellectual property, effectively overriding the laws of nations in the interests of capital.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Minister, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy introduced a new matter that was not in his original question. The mandate given to the European Commission, the negotiator for the EU in the transatlantic trade and investment partnership, TTIP, negotiations is a broad-ranging one. It builds on the outcome of the work of the EU-US high level group that recommended that negotiations on a comprehensive trade and investment agreement between the EU and the US should aim to achieve ambitious outcomes in three broad areas, namely, market access, tariffs and quotas, regulatory and non-tariff barriers, and rules addressing shared global trade challenges and opportunities.

Regulatory differences can represent unnecessary barriers to trade. Reducing such barriers to trade will be one of the most important ways TTIP will help to achieve the expected economic benefits from an agreement. Studies suggest that between two thirds and four fifths of the gains would come from reducing unnecessary administrative burdens, as well as having more co-ordination between regulators. A simple example would be a pharmaceutical product having to be clinically trialed in both the EU and the US, creating an unnecessary cost. Mutual recognition would be a significant gain in this regard. Closer co-operation between EU and US regulators should make regulation more effective and efficient and, for example, should reduce costs for business and regulators by eliminating unnecessary duplication of inspections.

Agreeing common standards may encourage other countries to bring their standards up too. This has the potential to lessen trade barriers internationally and increase the opportunities for greater international trade and investment, just what the world economy needs right now. Reducing barriers does not mean reducing standards, rather it means finding ways to achieve our legitimate public policy objectives, be they food safety, product safety, chemicals usage, environmental or worker health and safety, without maintaining or creating artificial and unnecessary trade barriers.

According to assessments made by the European Commission and other European bodies, a comprehensive partnership could, over time, boost EU gross domestic product, GDP, by 0.5% per annum and help create approximately 400,000 jobs in the EU. Based on those assessments, if Ireland simply benefited in proportion to the size of our economy, a comprehensive trade and investment partnership could, over time, provide gains to Ireland in excess of €800 million per annum in increased GDP and 4,000 new jobs.

Photo of Mick WallaceMick Wallace (Wexford, Independent)
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While I do not have a problem with free trade or the free movement of goods and people, there is a bit more to this agreement than that. For example, it will allow corporations to sue governments when they are trying to protect their citizens from their activities. It allows a secretive panel of corporate lawyers to overrule the will of national parliaments and the legal protections in place through the mechanism of the investor-state dispute settlement.

Before this agreement is settled, will there be a vote on it in the European Parliament or will it come to this House before we sign up to it? It has serious implications for citizens.

10:20 am

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Minister, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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Agreements of this nature have to come back for ratification. The European Commission is mandated to negotiate on behalf of the governments but the deal must be agreed in the end by the governments. We have a common market in the EU so if we are negotiating rules with other markets it is appropriate that the Commission would conduct the negotiation. If legally binding agreements are put in place and some institution refuses to respect them a company would have a right of redress against a failure to honour an agreement that has been signed. The investor-State dispute settlement is a separate question, and if Deputy Wallace tables one I could give him chapter and verse on it. We do not have these investor dispute settlements in Ireland and we have not used them.

Photo of Mick WallaceMick Wallace (Wexford, Independent)
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Recently WikiLeaks leaked information on the trans-Pacific trade agreement, which has much of the same mechanism involved in it. That agreement was found to be as much about extending monopoly rights of companies such as Monsanto rather than free trade. Of 29 chapters in that agreement, only five related to trade. There was much more concentration on patents, copyrights, trade marks and industrial design, which has serious implications for Internet service, civil liberties, publishing rights and accessibility to medicine. This idea that we may create a forum where corporations have the ability to sue States is a bad direction in which to go and should not be tolerated. It gives far too much power to corporations, undermines democracy and significantly erodes citizens rights.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Minister, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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Corporations always have the right to sue States. There is nothing innovative about that. If an international agreement gives certain terms of access, a corporation is entitled to see that parties which have contracted to that agreement would respect that. As I said in my reply, this in no way seeks to change the legal protections the EU has in any area, whether in food, intellectual property or data rights protection. Those will be issues of considerable difference in negotiation on intellectual property rights. The US has a different approach from the EU. This does not seek for the EU to give up its approach but to remove unnecessary trade barriers that, given the agreed approaches to food safety or intellectual property, would interfere with trade, while respecting the rules in each country. This is not to try to harmonise rules. It is to respect rules but not to have barriers to prevent trade given the rules that exist in other countries.