Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Statements


1:20 pm

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I am glad to have the opportunity to participate in this debate on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership because it is an important negotiated trade agreement on which we are embarking. Ireland is a small trading economy and is more dependent on exports than any other economy in the European Union. Our exports of goods and services represent about €200 billion, which is more than the whole of our national income put together. That shows the importance of the scale of exports. When one looks at our export-oriented companies, between them, namely, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland companies, they employ 400,000 people. Exports are at the very heart of our economic activity. It is commonly recognised that for every job within the export-oriented sector, another one is created in the various supply chains and services.

Some 800,000 jobs are directly or indirectly dependent on trade in this economy. That is a huge portion of our economy. Members can understand why free trade and free trade agreements are very important to our country. The negotiation of access to new markets historically has been a big driver of economic development in Ireland. Members will recall that when we joined the European Union many years ago and this was a relatively closed economy and very dependent on agriculture, we had only 1 million people at work throughout the economy. Now we have 2 million people at work, a doubling of the number of those at work.

We have dramatically diversified our economy. We have seen a huge growth in living standards and conditions in our country. Opening up Ireland to trade has been a major part of our historical development. The Acting Chairman will recall, as he has been around long enough as have I, that many of the negotiations around joining the European Union were hotly contested and many people opposed to joining argued to the best of their beliefs that our joining it would sacrifice employment, but we have seen employment double in the economy in the ensuing years. There is a long history of people being concerned about trade agreements and that is appropriate but it also is appropriate to bear in mind that where trade barriers come down and countries get the chance to trade it is to the mutual gain of both countries. The first lesson one learns in economics is about the mutual gains that people get from trade and the potential for growth and development of one's economy. While it is right that negotiators should be vigilant and prepared for every eventuality in a negotiation, it is also important to bear in mind the potential gains that can take place, as our history clearly illustrates.

When one embarks on a strategy of being open to participation in global trade, it imposes certain requirements and disciplines on the way in which one runs one's economy. The recent history of Ireland's boom and bust gives us a very fresh reminder of how a small open economy can forget the importance of being competitive in export markets, and that it will do so as its peril. In the early 2000s when the so-called Celtic tiger economy was at its height, only 1% of the jobs with respect to the jobs growth during the unprecedented growth between 2000 and 2007 were coming from exporting sectors. This was building up an unsustainable reliance on sectors such as construction, the public service and other areas that was not underpinned by a trading competitiveness that is essential for any small open economy.

By contrast, the recovery we have seen in recent years has shown a very different shape. Some 40% of the 136,000 people who are now back at work are directly employed by export oriented companies and one can add another multiplier to that 40% with respect to indirect employment. The recent history of our recovery has been very much centred around our capacity to compete and win in global markets at a time when there was very few sources of buoyancy in our economy. Export growth was the key. That is the context within which Europe has approached the free trade agreement and it has a comprehensive list of trade agreements it is seeking or, in some cases, has already negotiated. Europe has also been struggling for new sources of growth. Opening trade to new markets is crucial for Europe's long-term capacity to create and sustain jobs.

It is commonly recognised that 90% of the growth in the world economy will be outside Europe in the years ahead. We have to negotiate better access and become more committed to those markets where growth will occur in the future. That is very much true of the potential of the EU-US trade corridor as well. About one third of all world trade occurs on that corridor, therefore, it is one that has huge potential importance for Europe and Ireland.

The US is one of Ireland's largest trading partners. Irish goods exports to the US are worth €21 billion. We have very close historical relations with the US and we stand to gain significantly from a successful emergence of a trade agreement provided it does the right things and opens up opportunities for us. It is important we are vigilant in the course of that negotiation. An independent study commissioned by my Department has flagged very significant potential gains, up to €2 billion in terms of GDP, up to 10,000 in terms of extra jobs in exporting capacities and an increase in real wages of 1.5%. Significantly positive opportunities can be achieved through such a trade agreement.

I was particularly pleased that I was in the chair of the EU Presidency when the negotiation of this agreement occurred. It is worth reiterating to the House that when that mandate was negotiated it was founded on some important principles that have shaped the whole debate ever since and that are the bedrock of it. One is that there would be no erosion of the protection of workers or of health, consumer and environmental standards. A very important principle set out at the outset was that there would be no undermining of the right of Europe to regulate in the public interest, nor would there be any undermining of the procedures through which those regulations are developed in a democratic process and that there would be no erosion of the right of countries to run public services in whatever way they choose. That has been endorsed since by a common declaration by both Mike Froman and Commissioner Malmström. Also, there was a commitment that there would be greater transparency in the process of developing this agreement than there was in any previous one, and that has been very much a characteristic of this. In addition and very importantly, any agreement must be approved by the European Parliament and must be agreed in each member state by whatever system that member state has for ratification of those agreements. Those are very important principles and they have continued to dominate the consideration of the negotiations every since.

To summarise the process of what has happened, the purpose of this agreement is to generate jobs and growth by reducing barriers to trade and investment. It started with the appointment of a high level group in 2001, which did the scoping work on it and identified the areas where potential could be developed. We then secured a mandate from member states. A unanimous mandate was given to the European Union, to the Commission, to start negotiations on a very ambitious, historic, deep and comprehensive agreement, and there was very wide ambition on both sides to see this through. To date, there have been 11 rounds of negotiations and they have focused on three separate pillars, namely, market access, regulatory co-operation and rules.

Market access involves what we all would know about with respect to tariff, or non-tariff, barriers to trade in good or services. In terms of the progress on that, a second tariff offer was exchanged, excluding agriculture, and both sides have now arrived at a level of proposal covering 97% of tariff lines. Significant progress has been made on that. In addition, teams have been finalised working through revised services and investment offers which aim at improving the conditions for transatlantic trade in both areas. There has been some discussion on public procurement but, as Members will know, that is particularly important from a European point of view, it is a sensitive one from a US point of view but, from an Irish point of view, it is an area where there are real opportunities to be gained.

The second bloc is around regulatory issues and, essentially, it is focused on co-operation in the area of how regulation is conducted. It is not to change the regulations in either country - those are copperfastened by the principle that each bloc has the right to set its own regulatory approach in terms of public interest - but to reduce the cost of unnecessary red tape by making it easier for companies to comply with both EU and US laws while ensuring food, animal and plant imports are safe within the rules of each respective bloc.

It is about looking at where a pharmaceutical company, for example, has to run through all of the same tests in the United States that it has already completed against the same criteria within the European Union. The intention is to recognise the equivalence of ways in which tests are calibrated, among other issues. There are real opportunities in the more regulated sectors to have some common approaches to develop whereby there will be a recognition of the tests that occur in either. That will not be at the expense of consumers or lowering standards. Under an EU-US trade agreement, there would be no dilution of labour or environmental standards, no change to genetically modified organisms, no dilution of the right to regulate and no interference with public service provision. That was set out in a joint declaration by Mr. Mike Froman and the Commisioner, Ms Cecilia Malmström. The agreement also underpins the EU regulatory and democratic process, in other words, the way in which regulations are developed will remain the same. It is significant that non-tariff barriers of the type in place are probably five or six times greater in terms of economic significance than tariffs.

The third area is rules for trade-related issues and cover such matters as intellectual property rights, for example, so-called geographical indicators, in other words the right to call a product Parma ham if it was not produced in Parma, and energy investment. These issues are the third strand.

To outline some of the progress made, the one issue that has probably caused the most controversy in this House and which will no doubt be a feature in this debate is the investment protection system that it is proposed to include in the treaty. It is right that people are anxious about it and will look very carefully at what is negotiated because there have been some very bad investment protection treaties negotiated in the past. What the European Union is clearly setting out to do is to rectify the defects in some of them. The principle is easy to understand. If an Irish company is trading in 50 US states, it wants an assurance that it does not have to depend on every single state enacting into its law the protections set out in an agreement with the United States. Having an investor dispute settlement system clearly has attractions for Irish companies which will be trading, for example, in the public procurement system and which might face obstacles that are unfair or discriminatory.

The European Union has been very clear, as will be seen in the Canadian agreement, on when such agreements can be utilised. They are very restricted. There must be a denial of justice in criminal, civil or administrative proceedings; a fundamental breach of due process, including a fundamental breach of transparency in judicial administrative proceedings; manifest arbitrariness; targeted discrimination on manifestly wrong grounds such as gender, race or-----

1:35 pm

Photo of Seán KennySeán Kenny (Dublin North East, Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The Minister has one minute left.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Okay. The agreements are very restricted. Added to this, the European Union and the Commissioner have consulted widely, both with Parliament and member states, and added further protection to copperfasten the full protection of a government’s right to regulate within the agreement, making sure the way in which the arbitration courts work is transparent, ensuring those who are appointed to them are either judges or persons who are fit to be judges, that they are appointed by the system, not by those involved in the process and that there will be an independent source of appeal to an investment court. This very comprehensive EU proposal has been presented to the United States and at this point there has not been a reaction to it. It remains on the table to be debated.

Many Deputies were concerned about the issue of transparency. I have done everything possible to facilitate committees and my departmental officials have been very generous with their time to ensure people are informed. I am pleased to announce that the consolidated text of the agreement will be available to Oireachtas Members for consultation in a reading room on Kildare Street. The agreement to allow this to take place was made before Christmas with the United States. It will be another element of openness and allow people to assess the agreement in a fair and transparent way.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Louth, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I am pleased to have an opportunity to contribute briefly to this most important debate. The Fianna Fáil Party supports the principles of the TTIP. However, there are certain caveats. The successful conclusion of the EU-US free trade agreement, TTIP, depends on maintaining proper food standards and ensuring the jurisdiction of our courts will not be undermined.

An agreement on the TTIP could boost the European economy by more than €100 billion annually and create up to 10,000 extra jobs in Ireland. As an exporting country, Ireland stands to benefit disproportionately from the potential for expanded market access, given that 49% of our non-EU exports are to the United States.

The European Union and the United States are negotiating a trade and investment deal which would create the world’s largest free trade area, but the many challenges faced and the increasing public opposition put the successful conclusion of an agreement in doubt. In February 2013 EU and US leaders announced the start of procedures for negotiating an ambitious and comprehensive transatlantic trade and investment partnership, following the final report of the EU-US high level working group.

After a positive impact assessment by the European Commission, the Council approved the Commission’s proposed mandate for negotiations in June 2013. Talks, led by the European Commission and the US trade representative, started in July 2013; a fourth round was completed in March 2014 and a fifth is scheduled to be held between 19 and 23 May. Observers are sceptical, however, about the 18 to 24 month timeframe to reach a deal. Although negotiators are aiming for an agreement to be struck before the end of President Obama’s mandate in 2016, officials are privately pessimistic as to the reality of that deadline.

Fianna Fáil will only support a TTIP deal which upholds fully food safety standards and the way the European Union sets them. The European Union must ensure food standards would not be diminished in Europe by the agreement. This country must raise its voice to defend our interests in agriculture and the agrifood sector in the negotiation of th deal.

A number of key facts and figures for the agriculture industry are as follows: in 2015 Irish agrifood and drink exports increased by an estimated 3% to approximately €10.8 billion. The figures were prepared by Bord Bia in 2016. The United Kingdom was the main destination for Irish agrifood and drink exports in 2015, accounting for 41% of all exports. A total of 31% of exports went to continental EU markets, while the remaining 28% went to international markets.

The latest estimates for the distribution of our agrifood and drink exports in 2015 by sector are as follows: dairy products and ingredients, 30%; prepared consumer foods, 17%; beef, 22%; live animals, 2%; beverages, 12%; pigmeat, 5%; poultry, 3%; sheepmeat, 2%; seafood, 5%, and edible horticulture and cereals, 2%.

In 2015 Ireland exported an estimated 524,000 tonnes of beef worth approximately €2.19 billion. In 2015, 178,000 cattle were exported live from Ireland worth approximately €135 million. The Irish sheep flock showed a rise of 1.3% and totalled 5.16 million head, with the breeding flock decreasing by approximately 1.1% to 2.56 million head according to the June 2015 livestock survey.

During 2015 Ireland exported an estimated 47,000 tonnes of sheepmeat valued at approximately €230 million. In 2015 Ireland exported an estimated 230,000 tonnes of pigmeat worth an estimated €570 million. In 2015 the United Kingdom was the main market for Irish pigmeat, taking 40% of our total exports. In 2014 total milk output was estimated at 6,161 million litres. From this total milk output, 480 million litres was consumed as liquid milk.

2 o’clock

In addition, 166,000 tonnes of butter, 71,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder and 215,000 tonnes of cheese were produced in 2014. In 2015 total dairy and ingredient exports increased by an estimated 4% to €3.24 billion. Quotes from Teagasc highlight the importance of agriculture to the economy and it needs to be protected and supported. We in Fianna Fáil will only support a TTIP deal which upholds fully food safety standards and the way the European Union sets them. The Commission has stated current EU law on GMOs or hormone-treated beef will not change with the TTIP. This is a pledge which the Union must be robust in enforcing. Similarly, the chief EU negotiator has ruled out mutual recognition of chemicals between the European Union and the USA.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine reports that the agrifood sector in Ireland contributes €24 billion to the national economy, generating 6.3% of gross value added and almost 10% of Ireland’s exports, and provides 7.7% of national employment. It is one of Ireland's most important indigenous manufacturing sectors. According to the Teagasc website, it includes food and drink firms throughout the country that export 85% of our food and seafood to more than 160 countries worldwide.

The TTIP's expected benefits include its stated aim of expanding trade and investment across the Atlantic, increasing employment and competitiveness and enabling a common approach to rules for global trade which third countries could also adopt. Another goal is strengthening overall EU-US relations. The EU-US trade and investment relationship is considered the largest and most important in the world. The two economies account for nearly half of global gross domestic product and 30% of world trade, with US and EU trade flows in goods totalling €497 billion and in services totalling €315 billion. The level of foreign direct investment is even greater, with total FDI stocks of €3.2 trillion in each other’s economies. The transatlantic economy sustains about 15 million jobs, which illustrates the importance of the potential agreement. Nevertheless, the TTIP’s proponents claim there is untapped potential in the relationship. The European Union argues that significant gains would arise from further liberalising transatlantic trade. An EU commissioned study asserts that a comprehensive and ambitious TTIP would bring overall annual GDP gains of 0.5% for the European Union and 0.4% for the United States once fully implemented in 2027. That amounts to an extra €545 per household in the Europeand Union per year.

Reducing non-tariff barriers and further liberalising services and public procurement would constitute around 80% of the benefits. The TTIP would positively affect global GDP by a figure of €100 billion and labour markets. Other studies also point to major benefits for income levels and job creation in the European Union and the United States but also in those countries which stand to lose from the TTIP. The TTIP would also create opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises, mainly through trade facilitation.

Fianna Fáil wants to ensure the new opportunities to be created by TTIP would not just accrue to large companies. Such opportunities are especially valuable for SMEs, given that trade barriers tend to disproportionately burden small firms which have fewer resources to overcome them than their larger counterparts. It is welcome that there would be a dedicated chapter on SME issues within a TTIP agreement.

The negotiations cover market access, comprising the elimination of tariffs on goods and new access to services and public procurement; regulatory convergence and NTBs; and rules for global trade. The negotiators are discussing how to ensure the compatibility of existing and future regulations to reduce unnecessary costs and red tape, while achieving the levels of health, safety and environmental protection each side deems to be appropriate. In particular, five aspects are highlighted. They are sanitary and phytosanitary issues, including food safety, animal and health regulations; technical barriers to trade - technical regulations, conformity assessment and standards; specific sectors of goods and services, for example, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, automobiles and chemicals; cross-cutting disciplines and transparency; and a framework for future regulatory co-operation.

The United States stresses horizontal and transparency issues, while the European Union is prioritising the sector-specific pillar. Moreover, a US proposal to allow business more input earlier in EU rule-making, implying significant unreciprocated changes to the EU regulatory system, is opposed by the European Union and European business.

Another difficult topic is agriculture. The United States denounces EU policies and measures on genetically modified organisms, hormone-treated beef, pork fed with ractopamine and chlorine washed poultry as unjustified scientifically and a barrier to US exports. Therefore, the United States is seeking to eliminate EU SPS barriers to US meat exports. Clearly, it will be one of the most significant debating points in negotiating the agreement. The standards we apply here should be upheld. We owe it to the population of the European Union and I hope the US negotiators will recognise its importance.

US industry has been very vocal on the issues mentioned in criticising the European Union's approach and its refusal to open up such issues for discussion. The new US ambassador to the European Union has stated the European Food Safety Authority agreed with the belief of the United States that GM foods were safe and that the United States wanted the European Union to listen to its own scientific advice.

The TTIP is intended to set rules on investment protection, trade facilitation, intellectual property rights, labour and the environment and energy and raw materials which may eventually set global standards. Of these, the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement provisions seems to be the most contentious. In the face of growing opposition, the European Union adapted its position and announced the suspension of the ISDS talks pending a three-month public consultation process on the issue from March 2014. Fianna Fail shares the concerns of citizens about the controversial investor-state dispute settlement mechanism and the ability of powerful companies to sue foreign governments. It is concerned about the abuse of investor protection provisions and the lack of transparency surrounding arbitration processes. We welcome the recent European Commission proposal to lead the way in reforming the global investment regime into a public investment court system which will operate like traditional courts.

One of the crucial issues in the United States regarding trade negotiations is trade promotion authority, or fast track, which allows the President to put a negotiated document before Congress to approve it without it being able to make amendments. Trade promotion authority needs to be granted to the President by Congress. A Bill to do this has been introduced, but the White House is facing a lot of opposition, not least from Democratic Senators. The Commission has stated trade promotion authority will in the end be essential in concluding a deal, but as the negotiations are nowhere near a conclusion, the issue is not crucial at this time.

Another important aspect in the United States is the independence of regulatory agencies. This is important in the negotiations because it means that agencies such as the US Food and Drug Agency will have to be closely involved in them as they play an important role in creating rules, regulations and procedures. Relations between the federal and state governments will also play a part, especially in opening up public procurement markets at state level to EU companies.

We are of the strong belief the TTIP agreement should not lead to lower levels of consumer, environmental, social and labour protection that those offered in the European Union. We welcome and fully support the firm commitment of the European Commission and the other 27 member states that EU standards are not up for negotiation. Ireland must work with its European partners to ensure this commitment will be upheld. We will only support a TTIP deal which upholds fully food safety standards and the way the European Union set sets them. The European Union must ensure food standards will be not diminished in Europe by the agreement. Ireland must raise its voice to defend its interests in agriculture and the agrifood sector in the negotiation of this deal.

We would be opposed to any agreement which allowed for the undermining of the jurisdiction of the Irish courts through an investor-state dispute settlement clause.

There are concerns with possible abuse of investor protection provisions and the lack of transparency surrounding arbitration processes. However, Fianna Fáil welcomes the recent European Commission proposal to lead the way in reforming the global investment regime into a public investment court system, which will operate like traditional courts.

1:55 pm

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

At the outset, I wish to correct some figures the Minister mentioned with regard to jobs. According to the Central Statistics Office, CSO, 120,000 jobs have been created in the State since 2011, not 135,000. In addition, during that time, the number of people in activation schemes has risen from 50,000 to 80,000 and, therefore, it is reasonable to believe a good part of the aforementioned 120,000 jobs are activation places. This would bring the number of jobs created in the State down to 90,000. It also is important to contrast it with the fact that 147,000 people net have emigrated and that 105,000 are underemployed, that is, work for a few hours per week and seek full-time jobs. In total, the broad group of people who have been affected by Government economic policy is approximately 600,000 in number, which constitutes one quarter of the workforce.

Trade can be good and can be a way to ensure that people come out of poverty. It can mean that wealth and prosperity spread throughout the country and society and around the globe. It also means citizens can reach their full potential, either through work or through the propagation of new technologies and innovations. However, trade is amoral and it can be used in negative or positive ways. If it is structured unfairly, it can accentuate the imbalances in society. It can decrease safeguards in areas such as workers' rights, food quality and people's health and safety. Trade also can alter the political and economic landscapes of a country and can be used as a weapon of war. Consequently, as a liberal democracy, it is important to seek to construct the trade infrastructure of the planet in a fair manner. Oxfam's research has indicated this is a time of extreme inequality in which 62 people have the same level of wealth as 50% of the people on the planet. That is an incredible figure. Moreover, the wealthiest 1% of people now are as wealthy as the other 99% of the population. This situation is shocking and is progressively worsening. This is not just the typical left-right debate that happens with regard to poor and wealthy people in the State. This is the most radical over-concentration of wealth in the hands of a small group of people and no matter on what side of the Chamber one sits, there is a real need to focus on and eradicate that problem.

Rather than eradicating that problem, my worry is that agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, accentuate the problem even further. This concentration of wealth in the hands of a few is not happening by accident. It is happening on the basis of the rules of society and the trade rules. TTIP is the biggest negotiation on the largest trade agreement in the history of the planet and the level of opposition to it that has arisen recently is phenomenal, as more and more countries such as France, Germany, etc., realise that both their interests and those of their citizens are in trouble. It also is worth noting the entire process has been shrouded in secrecy. Corporate bodies have been given unfettered access to the European Commission. I believe 600 meetings behind closed doors have been held between the Commission and different lobby groups, 88% of the latter being large businesses. It is incredible that my MEP, who is responsible to me, can go into a secure reading room and read tracts from the negotiations. However, were I to ask the MEP what is the content of such reading, that MEP would be prohibited from giving me the full information. Consequently, the process by which TTIP is being negotiated is the antithesis of open and transparent democracy.

As for the projected benefits and so on of TTIP to society, the Copenhagen Economics report outlines the one-off increases in GDP levels at approximately 1.1%. It states, without providing proper evidence, that there could be between 5,000 and 10,000 additional jobs here. It is interesting because the Minister opened his remarks by noting Ireland currently is extremely successful in exploiting the opportunities available in the Atlantic trade corridor. That possibly is an argument against making such a radical change as is contemplated in this regard. In any event, 5,000 jobs amounts to 0.5% of total employment here and the Centre for Economic Policy Research, CEPR, study reckons that over the period of time, families would benefit by €545 on foot of full liberalisation by 2027 - in other words, an extremely small amount of money over that time. In an important point for this country, which is overexposed in respect of the level of its exports emanating from the foreign direct investment sector, the Copenhagen Economics report indicated that sector will overly benefit from any changes on foot of TTIP. Six out of eight sectors in which exports come from indigenous Irish organisations are likely to see a fall in exports as a result of TTIP. The report projects that under TTIP, economy-wide growth attributed to foreign firms will be ten times that of Irish firms and this will continue the damaging trend that already is happening in society.

There is so much to talk about and so little time in which to so do but the dangers of the inclusion within TTIP of the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism cannot be overstated. It represents a horrendous ceding of sovereignty and power not merely to a another political state or to a Union but to multinational corporations. For the first time, we are stating we do not believe our courts system is an adequate space in which disputes between citizens and corporations can be dealt with. If this is the case, we must make the necessary reforms to make the courts fit for purpose; not cede that power to an organisation that has no democratic responsibility back to us. I have no doubt but that this entire process, regardless of whether it is used to a significant extent, will have a chilling effect on nations' parliaments with regard to the policy decisions they make. All Members will have heard of the cases pertaining to Egypt, whereby the authorities there rowed back on changes to minimum wages, etc., due to the perceived threat of the investor-state dispute mechanism. It is interesting that the Minister today accepts some possible reforms may have taken place with regard to the aforementioned dispute mechanism. However, before those reforms were written, the Minister signed a letter encouraging the European Commission to commit to this process. The Minister had played his cards before the negotiation there had even happened. Members also will have noted the problems with big tobacco companies using this process around the world and the effect this can have on governments. Therefore, it is unbelievable that the Minister was party to a letter written to the European Commission pleading for the inclusion of a investor-state dispute settlement, ISDS, mechanism. European citizens have the right to be part of a democratic process and to have a parliament and jurisprudence over which they have oversight and this proposal reduces such oversight in this regard.

There is another major problem, whereby the Government refers to the reduction of non-tariff barriers. There are different types of non-tariff barriers and standards form a significant element of such barriers. Recently, the European Commission ditched any efforts to strengthen its rules on pesticides, the logic being that the Commission came under pressure from US officials because differences in standards would be perceived as being a non-tariff barrier. Even if the mechanics of the TTIP process are not directly related to downward pressure on those regulations, for the US and the EU to get rid of non-tariff barriers fully, the two parties will be obliged to reach a common denominator.

The fact of the matter is that the common denominator is likely to be lower than the standards in this country. This affects areas including the environment, workers' rights, the quality of foodstuffs and the testing done on products. Take, for example, Volkswagen. Even with two standards systems in two jurisdictions, it took the US to identify that Volkswagen was cheating when it came to the levels of emissions from its cars. The whole process will be reduced to a lowest common denominator and, as a result, the citizen will suffer.

2:05 pm

Photo of Michael ColreavyMichael Colreavy (Sligo-North Leitrim, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The more I read about and listen to the discussion on TTIP and ISDS, the more the word that looms large for me is "why". The Proclamation of Poblacht na hÉireann declared, "the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible". I do not think any of us here would argue with that declaration. If we accept that is the way it should be, why would the Government of an independent, democratic, sovereign republic willingly cede the power to determine and implement policy to anyone that is representative of the interests of international big business, profiteers and shareholders?

What threats, inducements or promises were made to somehow convince the Government and other European governments that TTIP and ISDS, with the consequential loss of sovereignty, could be viewed in any way as a good deal? Does a trade agreement have to contain trade provisions that provide that the ability of a democratically-elected Government to determine and implement policy can be usurped by big business? It is clear a trade agreement does not have to contain those provisions and it is equally clear that it should not contain such provisions. Despite the chorus of voices supporting it in this Parliament and others, TTIP and ISDS is not in the interest of the people of this republic.

A central tenet of TTIP is the investor state dispute settlement, ISDS. Under ISDS, a company is able to sue a state if a government introduces legislation which the company feels might be damaging to its business interests. Companies are able to bypass the national court system and go directly to the international, investor-based, tribunals. It is not just conspiracy theorists who are talking and writing about it. A moratorium on fracking was introduced in Quebec in 2012. Due to an ISDS arrangement which is part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canada is now being sued for 250 million Canadian dollars for loss of potential profit. Approximately 63% of ISDS cases which have been brought against Canada have been due to environmental protections Canada introduced and which the companies feel have been hurting their profits or potential profits. The use of this tactic is to force democratic governments to comply with the will of multinational business and thereby thwart the democratic process. This is the reason I ask why. If any proof were needed that we should stop the fundamentally flawed and compromised EPA study into fracking and ban fracking for ever, Canada is it. Think of the 250 million Canadian dollars, stop and study and then stop fracking forever in this country.

The beef industry supports more than 100,000 family farms. Any changes to it will certainly have an impact, and in my view an adverse one, on the agrifood industry in this country. We have meat from clean, grass-fed animals in this country and we are known throughout the world for it. Within TTIP and ISDS, a steer reared on a farm in Montana and fed artificial food will be as valuable as a grass-fed cow in Ireland.

As a democratic institution, we have a solemn responsibility to ensure the democratic process is upheld. As the inheritors of the men and women of 1916, we must demand that the will of the people is to the foremost of all decisions made in this country and not the will of some backroom investors who are keen to walk all over the democratic process of this country and others.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I regret there is so little time available for this debate. As the Whip for the Technical Group, I have been raising it at the Whips' meeting for more than six months. During the last throes of this Government and Dáil, we are being allowed a tiny amount of time to talk about this significant issue. The Social Democrats and I accept that as small, open economy Ireland is required to trade with the rest of the world and we require trade agreements. However, that we are opposed to TTIP does not mean we are opposed to trade.

There are three primary reasons for our opposition. First, what has happened to date has been cloaked in far too much secrecy. There has been a lack of transparency. One needs to question why.

Second, the investor state dispute settlement process is a key issue and of major concern. It is the most controversial element in TTIP's design. All trade agreements contain dispute resolution mechanisms. However, TTIP will contain an ISDS process that will hand inordinate power to large corporations to interfere with the democratic right of state parties to adopt policies contrary to the commercial interests or potential commercial interest of such corporations. The ISDS process will allow corporations to legally challenge governments of state parties and prevent the adoption of certain policies. While the Commission says that forcing policy change is not possible through the ISDS, it will be possible for the panel of international arbitrators to require a state party to pay compensation to a company where it finds that the company was treated unfairly by the Government. However, the definition of "unfair" is unclear. Many multinationals have turnovers comparable to the GDP of a small European nation. I include ourselves in that. It is not clear what levels of compensation may be awarded. This is a serious transfer of power and we have major concerns about it.

The third point I wish to highlight concerns regulatory co-ordination. This includes, for example, food standards and employment rights. There is a major concern in this regard. Many environmentalists are concerned that challenges could be brought against, for example, domestic energy policy. A large automobile company could challenge the decision of the Commission to require cleaner emission standards. An American nuclear power investor may challenge a decision by a state to pay a party to phase out nuclear power and get compensation. This is just an example.

Those are the three primary reasons for our opposition. We completely accept that trade agreements are necessary but it is what is contained in TTIP that makes it most objectionable.

2:15 pm

Photo of Mick WallaceMick Wallace (Wexford, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I have raised TTIP with the Minister, Deputy Bruton, on many occasions: he has probably got tired listening to me. I have been highlighting my fears about the negative impacts it could have, while he has been concentrating on the jobs and growth that are supposed to spin out of it. To support his claims, the Minister repeatedly cites the now discredited research by the Centre for Economic Policy Research on behalf of the European Commission, and a study by Copenhagen Economics commissioned by the Minister's Department. Both these studies use the same economic modelling framework, the general equilibrium model, which even first year economics students learn is pretty useless for assessing reality, although it is very suitable for neoliberal policy makers. It works on the ridiculous assumption that the market is self-correcting, although we know it is not. The model assumes a fixed labour supply and perfect labour mobility. It assesses regulations which protect workers' health, food quality and the environment as "costs", while the removal of costs is calculated as economic gain. Basically, it is neoliberal, free-marketeering corporate welfare, yet the Government keeps telling us everything is great.

The Minister's Department has promised that regulatory co-operation will not lead to a watering down of protections for the environment, public services, public health or privacy. However, the fact is that since regulatory co-operation between the US and the EU began in earnest in 1998, it has been responsible for steadily lowering our protections and standards. I will give a few examples which have recently been highlighted by Corporate Europe Observatory.

Privacy has been attacked by regulatory co-operation. The European Court of Justice recently struck down the safe harbour agreement, which was concocted under regulatory co-operation. The court argued that the agreement did not safeguard citizens' right to data privacy and God knows, given the revelations by Snowden last year, including the fact that just about every phone call in Ireland can be recorded thanks to tapping into the fibre-optic cable in the sea just off Wales, we have plenty of reasons to be concerned about citizens' data protection.

Another aspect is financial regulation. In 2004, for example, US financial institutions managed to secure an agreement that would allow them to operate in the EU while being monitored by US supervisory authorities. One of the end results was that, when the financial crisis reached its peak in Europe in 2008, it was revealed that neither US nor EU financial authorities had any idea what assets the US insurance giant AIG had on its books. The collapse of this co-operation marked a key drama in the crisis and led to a bailout of $186 billion. These guys can fail as there is always a State there to pick up the tab for them.

On environmental protections, a proposal on electro-scrap chemical waste was watered down in 2002. The precautionary principle was sidelined in the process, as the final version made it impossible for member states to adopt a ban, even when a substance is deemed dangerous. A proposal to move faster on ozone-depleting substances was struck down in 2000. The EU’s 2013 proposal that airlines should pay for emissions was immediately attacked and effectively stopped by the US through the regulatory co-operation mechanism.

What is really scary is that all these attacks on protections happened when regulatory co-operation was based on voluntary rules. The TTIP will change all that and lock us into a disastrous situation in which the unspoken motto of neoliberalism, "profit before people", will become law. There is no doubt that neoliberalism suits fine for the present Government and it suited fine for Fianna Fáil and the Green Party before it. It has been the driving philosophy for some time and gives the people plenty to worry about for the future.

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, United Left)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

What we have here is a massive transfer of powers and an erosion of democratic rights. This charade in the Chamber today is nothing more than a sop and a pretence that our Parliament is discussing the matter. I find it quite insulting.

As George Monbiot has put it, where once trade agreements promoted free trade by removing trade tariffs, "now they promote the interests of transnational capital by downgrading the defence of human health, the natural world, labour rights and the poor and vulnerable from predatory corporate practices." This is the neoliberal project unleashed, the endgame of that project, whereby there has been a chipping away at many of the rights that people came to expect. The damage is found in polluted rivers and seas; overheating economies; temporary, low-paid jobs; air pollution; and the transfer of wealth from the majority into the hands of a very small and shrinking minority. With this deal on the table, the social democratic facade of the EU is being finally dismantled.

The Government and other international leaders have said to those of us who have raised objections not to be worrying about it, and have told us it is not going to be as bad as we all think. However, with other agreements like the trans-Pacific partnership, TPP, and so on, we heard exactly the same thing and, once the details were published, they were actually worse than what people had thought. We have been given a variety of assurances about investor-state dispute settlement, renamed the investment court system, which renaming is just cosmetics really. We have been given assurances about public services, genetically modified organisms, GMOs, and food standards but it is very difficult to take those assurances at face value given what has happened with TPP and other agreements.

A fundamental problem here is that there are a lot of reassurances that turn out to be utterly worthless. For example, last May, talking about the TPP, Barack Obama said:

critics warn that parts of this deal would undermine American regulation - food safety, worker safety, even financial regulations. They're making this stuff up. This is just not true. No trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws.

He was of course utterly wrong; when the text of the TPP was published it emerged that many of the commitments they were talking about had been stood on their heads.

The Minister told the Oireachtas jobs committee back in May that everything was going to be grand, we should not be worried and that the negotiations were utterly transparent. That is not true; they have not been transparent. While we have had sight of the Commission's position papers and negotiating texts, we have not seen the US side. We certainly have not had full and free public access to the draft of the agreement. MEPs are able to get access to a draft text only in confidential reading rooms where the texts are stored, and even if they do go to the bother of looking at them they cannot tell the public what they have actually seen or take notes beyond what they can scribble down with a pen and paper when they go in. Is that transparency and accountability? If everything is so great with the deal, why is it shrouded in secrecy? The only conclusion one can reach is that everything is not so great with it. We can base that on what has happened in other trade agreements.

Photo of Paul MurphyPaul Murphy (Dublin South West, Socialist Party)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Finally we have a debate - two and a half hours on what is the most serious attack on the environmental, labour, consumer and democratic rights of almost 1 billion people. That is how seriously the Government takes it. In reality, among all of the governments in the European Union, the Government is one of the biggest fans of TTIP and all its most odious parts.

TTIP is a charter for corporate rights. It very consciously places the right of big corporations to profit above the rights of ordinary people to decent wages, a safe environment and proper consumer rights. It gives the corporations the right to sue governments that interfere with their right to profit and also gives them special access to the writing of regulations so they are written in the corporations' interests.

There is free trade between the EU and the US. The average tariff for US imports into the EU is 3.5%, while the other way around it is 5%. This is not about free trade; 80% of the so-called estimated benefits of the agreement come from what are called "non-tariff barriers". Non-tariff barriers are those things that the rest of us would call environmental legislation, labour legislation, health, consumer and financial regulations. This is a race to the bottom of the Atlantic in all of those regulations in the interests of major corporations. These are not negotiations between the representatives of ordinary people in the EU and in the US. As John Hilary said, TTIP is correctly understood not as a negotiation between two competing trading partners but as an assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations seeking to remove regulatory barriers to their activities on both sides of the Atlantic. The big corporations are dominating the meetings with the Commission. Some 90% of the meetings the Commission is having with so-called stakeholders are with representatives of the big corporations.

The way they will do it is precisely through the ISDS mechanism. We can rename it whatever we like but, in reality, what this means it is a right to sue any government that interferes with the right to profit, where expropriation is defined extremely broadly and includes measures tantamount to expropriation, indirect expropriation and regulatory expropriation. If a country does anything that interferes with their right to maximise profit, they can sue, as they have been doing under existing agreements in a whole range of highly controversial cases.

The other point I want to highlight, because it is sometimes lost in all of the justified focus on ISDS, is the question of regulatory co-operation. This is the back door by which they will agree GMOs, chlorine washed chickens and hormone fed beef. They will not sign up for it in the first instance but it is a living agreement. They set up a regulatory co-operation council, which is populated by so-called experts who are representatives of the big corporations and, from then on, they get a first say in the writing of laws. It is giving corporations the right to write laws on things that affect the rest of us. This must be a key issue in the election. People should not vote for any political party that refuses to take a clear stand against TTIP.

2:25 pm

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Surprisingly, I find myself in agreement with much of what the Sinn Féin speakers had to say. I am not that surprised to find myself in agreement with Deputy Michael Colreavy, who is somebody I have worked closely with in the agriculture committee. I understand he is not seeking re-election and I want to pay tribute to him and his very positive contribution in the House and, in particular, at committees, where he has been a very reasonable and reasoned voice, although having been a reasonable and reasoned voice has not in any way diluted what he had to say or the strength with which he argued it. He is a colleague with whom it has been a pleasure to work over the past five years. Perhaps it is simply because we are both representatives of rural Ireland in the area west of the Shannon that he is somebody with whom I personally found a lot of common ground.

To return to the specific debate on TTIP, the Minister opened the debate by talking about the benefits of the European Union and he stated that certain parties were against Ireland's entry to it. He is right. My own party, the Labour Party, campaigned against Ireland's entry to the European Union. With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps it was wrong, or at least it was wrong for a period of time because, of course, the EU was more than a mere trade agreement or trading body. That remained the case for at least a period of time, when it enjoyed a greater degree of legitimacy than it does now.

States derive their legitimacy from the democratic mandate of those who govern them but also from vindicating the rights of their citizens. While there is a democratic deficit at the heart of the EU, it has also been very much about vindicating the rights of its citizens. The social democratic movement in Europe, along with the broader European left, would have very much favoured the social Europe which evolved and which is now, unfortunately, in retreat, given the make-up of the current Commission and of the previous Commission under President Barroso. That social Europe which was brought about was certainly something I would have favoured and it was also favoured by the majority of citizens in Ireland who would see the benefits of the EU, by citizens across Europe and by all those on the left who consider themselves to be internationalists. While I am sure we could have a big argument in this House about who is on the left and who is not, I believe most of us - I say "us" - would see ourselves as internationalists but also as being in favour of a social Europe and of social protection.

It is for that reason I would have concerns about TTIP and what exactly is proposed. I would not accept that the Commission as it currently stands is about protecting small states, nor is it about protecting a social Europe. It has been very much influenced by the mantra of big business. I appreciate this is one of the issues that would most highlight the differences between the parties in Government. For example, the Minister is clearly very much in favour of what TTIP can potentially do whereas I have a lot more concern about it. While I am not sure if all those in my party have concerns, I dare say a majority would have.

The Minister is a great believer in trade. He believes corporations are essential and that we need to do everything possible to attract corporations and not hinder them in any way. I disagree with that. I also disagree with the effect the large multinationals are having in rural Ireland, with Tesco vans driving out with deliveries and the fact that multinationals are selling below-cost alcohol and below-cost foodstuffs that are produced in Ireland. From my time on the environment committee, I know members of the Minister's party also have grave concerns about below-cost selling of food and the lack of transparency in the food chain. Legislation was introduced which could have been utilised to bring about greater transparency and a ban on below-cost selling of Irish agricultural produce, but that was not utilised. I appreciate there are ideological reasons for that and while I respect the ideology the Minister holds, I do not agree with it. I do not think it brings about a better or fairer society and I do not think it is in line with what is beneficial for Ireland.

Deputy Colreavy spoke about the Irish people being sovereign. Of course, we pool our sovereignty within the EU but we do not pool our right to govern or to introduce laws and regulations with people who represent only market interests, and who do not represent citizens and their broader interests, such as the right to health, to earn a decent living and to engage in work, all of which are fundamental to our Republic and to the social Europe.

The example of Australia being sued under an investment protection treaty for introducing plain labelling on tobacco has been mentioned in the House. This is of concern to me because it is one of the advances this Government has made under the Fine Gael deputy leader, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy James Reilly, who came out very strongly in favour of plain packaging and a greater unanimity in advertising for tobacco products. If we continue down that road, will we in Ireland be sued? If we introduced an order on minimum pricing for alcohol, will we be sued by market interests? I believe most would agree the consumption of alcohol is widely accepted as a social activity in Ireland, but not the below-cost selling of alcohol, which results in binge drinking and in a greater burden for our health care system. It also means people are being pushed by market forces into drinking more at home and spending their money on what is produced by multinationals, in a context where many of the alcohol companies and the big multinationals are not Irish. As a result, the profits leave Ireland. Is it on that basis and that basis alone that the sale of alcohol is to be regulated? I do not think so.

I am a farmer and come from a constituency where agriculture is hugely important, as is tourism. There are huge concerns in this regard. Irish farmers produce a very high quality agricultural product. Again, I refer to Deputy Colreavy, who mentioned that we have grass-finished beef. Grass-finished beef is a very different product even when compared to some of the beef that comes from the Minister's area, where cattle are fed rations in feeding houses. There is a problem with the greater control that beef barons like Larry Goodman exert on that because they control more and more feeding houses. As smaller farmers go under, they are forced to take a contract to feed Larry Goodman's cattle, and he then has a huge number of cattle. Therefore, when the prices start to rise for the ordinary producer who produces a very high quality product, whether in Kerry, Leitrim, east Clare or west Clare, the beef barons can flood the market and drive the price down again. The bottom line is that all beef produced in Ireland is hormone free and almost all cattle range naturally in the wild.

They see the sky over them and grass under them and do not live their lives with concrete under their feet, as do cattle in other countries. They are not fed hormones or genetically modified food. Is all of this to be jeopardised for investors? These are legitimate concerns.

The issue of tourism is also hugely important. It is impossible to conceive of fracking in Ireland. Of course, it would not be economically feasible now with the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia driving down international oil prices. However, if and when oil prices start to rise again, as they will, people will start to talk about fracking again. I believe it is impossible to conceive of fracking in west Clare where the landscape is a tourism product. Will those that invest in fracking and the technology involved be able to sue Ireland if it chooses not to allow fracking? That would be a preposterous invasion of our sovereignty, one that I would not accept. We have seen the watering down of the 2009 fuel quality directive, which was meant to ensure that fuel is only extracted from relatively clean sources. However, the fuel derived from the tar sands of Canada was allowed to be introduced into Europe on the basis of free trade and investor protection.

These issues need to be balanced, but they can only be balanced if a treaty is discussed openly, rather than in the closed manner referred to, between democratically elected and accountable representatives. The issues should not be left to representatives who are only accountable to big business and shareholders. That is not the world I want to live in and is certainly not something I am prepared to countenance or accept, even in the name of free trade, because the legitimacy of the European Union was not just based around free trade, but around the protection and the vindication of the rights of every citizen right across Europe.

2:35 pm

Photo of Seán KennySeán Kenny (Dublin North East, Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Deputy Martin Ferris is sharing time with Deputy Seán Crowe.

Photo of Martin FerrisMartin Ferris (Kerry North-West Limerick, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

It is hard, in such a short time, to express all the concerns I have about TTIP. For a start, the fact that the negotiations are being held in such secrecy creates an uneasy atmosphere about the agreement that will finally emerge. There are threats to workers' rights, to our food safety standards, to agriculture and to our very sovereignty, in the sense that investor state dispute settlement, ISDS, seems to bestow more power on corporations than sovereign governments. We have seen some stark examples of this, for example when Veolia, a company that is also very active in Ireland, threatened to sue the city of Alexandria because the Egyptian government wanted to increase the minimum wage.

However, because I have limited time, I will focus on agriculture, related matters and my concerns about TTIP in that area. The Irish beef industry is export-led and needs to be so to survive. The entry into the EU market of beef from the United States of America can only do damage to the Single Market. The American product is produced to standards far less strict than the European ones and the presence of hormones in the meat is a major factor. Beef from the US will be cheaper than the European product. This introduces unfair competition, which can only lead to a lowering of standards in the Union or damage to the market for home produced meat. The reputation of Irish meat is second to none and this must remain the case.

Consumer confidence is key to maintaining our market for Irish agricultural produce and any dilution of that is a serious threat to the industry, which is already threatened by lower prices, higher production costs and manipulation of the market by the big operators within it who have no regard for the maintenance of the family farm and the people whose lives depend on Irish agriculture. Ireland is a small country, but where a meat processing cartel is in existence, it is able to manipulate the market, control prices to suit its agenda, have access to beef and cattle data and maintain feeder lots so as to ensure it can manipulate prices. The magic number in this regard is 30,000 animals a week. Effectively, if farmers or a farming organisation decide to hold back cattle in order to obtain higher prices, the cartel can supply cattle from its feeder lots to maintain the market in its own interest. It is predicted that our beef sector will contract by something between 1% and 3%, the equivalent of from €25 million to €45 million, as a result of TTIP.

We are also concerned at the threat that genetically modified organisms will be a more common phenomenon. The opening of the EU market to food produce from the United States, where approximately 70% of all processed foods sold in supermarkets contains genetically modified ingredients, must have an effect and it seems that our own cautious approach to GMOs will be cast aside in the face of this deal. EU plans to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals found in pesticides were dropped recently and there is concern that this too is a TTIP issue. Food production in the European Union follows a preventative approach, ensuring high levels of hygiene at all stages of food production from farm to fork. These standards must be maintained and demanded of any food coming into the EU market.

Irish farmers must adhere to strict criteria. From the moment a calf is born we have traceability. We also have significant safety standards in regard to the eradication of any diseases. In the United States, most cattle are treated with antibiotics for any type of ailment or are fed antibiotics to prevent illness. They are also fed with GM produce. These cattle then make their way into the market, often with stark consequences. The standards we have must be maintained and demanded of any food coming onto the EU market. We want to maintain these standards.

We pride ourselves on the traceability of our produce. Our consumers like to know where their food is coming from, but can we guarantee that with US produce? I do not believe so. The same goes for milk and other dairy produce. The point must be made that the so-called opening of the US market to Irish beef has not materialised in the massive sales we were promised. Early last year it was stated this market would be worth in excess of €50 million a year, but in response to a priority question this morning, the Minister, Deputy Coveney, informed us this market was only worth €11 million last year. Therefore, the prediction was totally wrong.

If our export trade is offset by our own market in Europe being flooded by beef or dairy produce produced cheaply to standards far lower than ours, we are in big trouble. How do we know, when the Government is not telling us, that the interests of Irish agrifood manufacturing are being protected during these negotiations? Does the Government even know what is being negotiated on our behalf? I doubt it. Are these negotiations being rural proofed on our behalf? The big question around the whole issue of TTIP is in whose interests is this deal. That is a question to which we have not had a satisfactory answer.

The Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine and five other committees were to debate this issue, but just three committees did so. The agriculture committee raised questions regarding the motivation behind TTIP, who benefits from it and the ulterior motive behind it. Given the tremendous record of beef, dairy and food produce in general within the European Union, its standards are second to none. These standards serve us well from the point of view of our agricultural export programme. We need to protect this position, not just for economic gain, but for our citizens so that they can be safe and be assured the produce they buy, cook and eat is of the same standard as we are compelled to produce.

These questions need to be asked. The Minister must take on board everything that has been said, not least what has been said by Labour Party Deputies, who for once have been inclined to agree with us. I hope he takes that on board also.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

As there is just a short time left in this slot, does Deputy Crowe wish to take that time or speak later?

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Can I have five minutes?

2:45 pm

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

3 o’clock

We can give the Deputy extra time.

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The debate follows an attempt to have a cross-party committee motion on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP. I was one of the first to raise this at committee meetings, as I had concerns about it. It seems bizarre that the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, of which I am a member, has never discussed TTIP. The Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform did not examine its impact on public procurement, financial services and customs, which again seems odd. The Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality could not investigate or report on the investor-state dispute settlement, ISDS, mechanism or data protection. The Joint Committee on Transport and Communications decided not to examine how TTIP could affect regulations around fracking.

We are talking about a report that is approximately ten pages long, which is not very long. It pales in comparison with some other European countries, which have produced much more detailed reports. They have as many concerns as we do about where this leading. TTIP is unprecedented in its scale and depth and the Oireachtas report should have outlined the positive and negative aspects of the trade agreement, as raised by Oireachtas Members of all parties and none. Sadly, the report does not achieve that.

Colleagues have already referred to a number of issues and I will reflect on the comments of other speakers relating to the ISDS mechanism. That will allow companies to bypass national court systems and go directly to international investor-based tribunals and sue governments if they introduce new rules or laws after corporations make an investment in that country. This process completely undermines state sovereignty and democratic decision-making. Some examples were given during the debate but companies in the resource extraction industry could sue governments that implement more environmentally friendly policies. That certainly raises some concerns. For example, Lone Pine Resources Canada is suing the Canadian Government for $250 million after the Quebec Government introduced a moratorium that would ban fracking. That is being done under the same ISDS mechanism in the North American Free Trade Agreement. The TransCanada Corporation is suing the US Government for $15 billion because it cancelled plans to build the environmentally disastrous Keystone pipeline that would have affected very sensitive areas.

Instead of being worried about this bypassing of the national courts, one Fine Gael MEP, Mr. Seán Kelly, suggested that the ISDS tribunal could be located in Ireland. He clearly does not have a problem with the nature of these tribunals. The big question we all should ask is, what is wrong with our courts? Why do we need these tribunals? The argument is that the law would be undermined but I thought we are fairly well regulated in Europe. There is no shortage of laws or regulations in Ireland, although many of us argue that there is a need to improve them.

The Minister would even assert that the mechanism that allows private corporations to sue national governments for potential loss of revenue or profits will not interfere with the right of governments to regulate. The European Commission has had to back-track on its original ISDS plans because of the outcry of many European citizens but re-labelled ISDS plans will not fool anybody.

My colleague in Sinn Féin, Mr. Matt Carthy, MEP, commissioned a formal legal opinion into the constitutionality of the European investment court proposed by the European Commission and we expect that it will confirm that an Irish referendum will be required as the new court would not engage with the national court and it would limit the ability of an Irish Government to legislate freely. Nevertheless, the Government continues to champion this anti-democratic move, although it is not saying why. It is worrying that it has no concerns about the compatibility of this court system with the Constitution. I hope there will be a referendum, as it would be the only appropriate democratic process for citizens' engagement. Sinn Féin, along with other parties and individuals in the House and millions of citizens right across the European Union, would welcome such a referendum.

There are serious concerns relating to TTIP, as it was not properly examined or debated by a number of committees. I attended meetings of the Joint Committee on European Affairs and there was serious engagement and as we tried to get different views. However, it is like all these things in that trade is good and we cannot say anything about it because it will bring about more jobs, etc. It will also mean deregulation and major changes as workers may potentially lose their jobs. We should not let this go through on the nod. We must discuss it seriously and whoever is returned following the election should seriously examine these trade agreements. We should give everybody in the House a fair say and an opportunity to tease out the details of these agreements. There must certainly be good elements in TTIP but there are also negative aspects. It is a reasonable position to adopt. I am disappointed that the Government used its majority on many of the committees to cut short or disallow debate on the issue.

Photo of Maureen O'SullivanMaureen O'Sullivan (Dublin Central, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

There is no doubt that TTIP is being presented to us in very glowing terms but there are really serious concerns. I listened to the Minister earlier but those concerns have not been addressed. There are massive implications for workers' rights, food safety, agriculture, banking and education. There are also implications for the environment and culture. As it stands, this agreement will undermine and jeopardise the public good and it is a threat to our sovereignty.

The ISDS mechanism is extremely worrying, as it means foreign investors will be able to sue a sovereign state - a democratically elected government - for a loss of profit resulting from public policy decisions. I refer to what I and others in non-governmental organisations, trade unions, politics and civil society see as the aim of TTIP, which is to remove any regulatory barrier to profit and the profit-making potential of multinational and transnational companies. There are examples of this and we know, the Canadian Government is being taken to court by oil and gas companies. We have heard about the legal action being taken by tobacco companies relating to plain packaging. We will see more countries being sued for massive amounts of money by multinational and transnational companies. Countries need that money for vital services like health and education.

There are real fears of an open door to a proliferation of private and for-profit schools and colleges. TTIP has the potential to undermine the independence of our institutes of education and universities. It can also limit the Government, the Minister responsible for education and the Department in framing our educational policy for the public good. When I raised this educational aspect on Leaders' Questions with the Taoiseach, he stated that the negotiating teams were aware of the different elements and would consider this aspect. Where are those negotiations and will education be excluded?

There are also implications relating to culture as there is a strong possibility of cultural expression being damaged. At the behest of France, there is a cultural exception protecting the tradition of French cinema from Hollywood blockbusters, so how can we protect our culture and theatre, for example, from the competition of major international production companies? How can we protect Irish jobs in the cultural area, including those of writers, composers, directors, actors and musicians? As it stands, they are very poorly paid and they have very unstable careers. Their freelance status excludes them from many of the safeguards normally provided for those in employment and they will not be served well by TTIP. There are also implications for the Irish language.

I submitted a parliamentary question and the reply stated that, "according to assessments made by the EU Commission, a comprehensive free trade deal between the EU and the US could, over time, boost EU GDP by 0.5% per annum". The Centre for Economic Policy Research, on the other hand, has stated that EU GDP could grow by 0.48% over ten years. This means a GDP growth of 0.048% per annum. However, there is also a possibility of it being only 0.027% per annum. The EU Trade Commissioner was also flying growth at 0.5% per annum. It is all very misleading.

There are real concerns about the loss of foreign direct investment because of TTIP, and a freedom of information request by a journalist suggested that the IDA had those concerns. We need an honest and open debate on TTIP with real information about its effects on public services, education, health, food, farming, the environment and foreign direct investment. There is also a danger that TTIP could allow the US multinationals to bypass Ireland to gain entry to the EU markets. Are we sleepwalking into a disaster with misleading and inaccurate information?

The Minister's earlier comments about the investor state dispute settlement, ISDS, did not allay the worries and concerns, especially regarding climate change. I raised this on Leaders' Questions on 6 May 2015, at which stage the Taoiseach promised a debate. It has been a very long time coming. At the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, I expressed fears that we would not get an opportunity to discuss all this in the detail it needs. While the carrot is access to a potential market of hundreds of millions of people, giving corporations so much power over our democracies is a very high price to pay for it.

2:55 pm

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I slightly disagree with Deputy Crowe, although I generally agree with his analysis.

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

That was when I went off script.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

There is nothing to recommend TTIP, the Trade in Services Agreement, TISA, the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, CETA, the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement or any of these so-called free trade treaties. They are nothing more than the next phase in the corporate takeover of economic life with a very serious consequence for democracy, essentially bypassing and subverting normal democracy.

By way of background to this, it is worth referring to the presence today of the Taoiseach in the luxury Swiss resort of Davos, where he is hobnobbing with the world’s billionaires and the CEOs of the world’s richest companies. If they bothered to pay tax, we might have less global poverty and homelessness, less of a housing crisis and we might have the resources we need for our infrastructure and our public services. However, because of these greedy oligarchs, whose greed seems to know no bounds and whose level of wealth and earnings is obscene in the extreme, our public services and infrastructure are chronically under-resourced.

These people do not believe in paying taxes and their greed for profit is boundless, to the point that the 65 richest individuals in the world own more wealth between them than the poorest 50% of the world's population. It is shocking and obscene. Today, in Davos, the Taoiseach is sucking up to those greedy people. Instead of asking corporation representatives why they do not pay their taxes, the Taoiseach is sucking up to these oligarchs and tax dodgers, and is facilitating, as are other EU leaders, the sort of agreements that will further advance the control the multinationals have over our economic life, public services and infrastructure.

TTIP is nothing to do with increasing trade. Tariffs between the US and Europe are already very low, and more serious estimates of the trade increase that will result from TTIP put it at approximately 0.1%, which is negligible. As the proponents of TTIP admit, it is about removing what they call barriers. They are worried about barriers to the advance of the multinational corporations, particularly to grab control of public services, areas from which they have been excluded due to public provision. This is where it relates directly to homelessness and our housing and health service crises. Multinationals want to move into those areas and take over. They want to expand private healthcare in order to make money from it and grab control of the housing market, and our Government is facilitating it with such agreements.

The ISDS mechanism will be the means by which democratically elected governments representing the people will be unable to prevent the privatisation of services, defend the collective-bargaining rights of trade unions, enforce proper health and safety regarding food or protect the environment, among a range of other issues. It relates to issues such as water. Recently, as a result of an ISDS-style court decision, the Argentine Government was required to pay €405 million in compensation to water giant Suez because it had reversed the privatisation of the Buenos Aires water utility after the corporation sought a 60% increase in water charges.

Does this start to ring some warning bells about what is happening here and with regard to Government assurances that we will prevent our water services from being privatised? No. Once these agreements have been implemented, we will not have the right to protect our water services from privatisation. Multinational giants, which are already privatising Irish Water through the back door, will be able to simply tell Governments they are not allowed to subsidise water services or infrastructure or keep the corporations out of the market for water, health, education or housing. It will not be allowed. TTIP will destroy jobs, small and medium enterprise, environmental protection, labour rights and trade union rights. We must oppose it, root and branch.

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal South West, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on TTIP. The debate has been a long time coming to the Dáil. It is interesting that it is only in the dying days of the Dáil that a short amount of time has been allowed for it. Much has been made of the TTIP ISDS mechanism and much public outcry has focused on how it provides for secret tribunals whereby corporations can take states to court for blocking their commercial and business interests. Under the other free trade agreements, corporations that take states to court under the ISDS system win 60% of cases. There has been a reaction to the public outcry about ISDS.

Included in the TTIP negotiations is an equally insidious system of regulatory co-operation between the sides, which will enable decisions to be made without public oversight or engagement. Businesses will be involved from the beginning of this secretive process, well before any public debate takes place, and will have excellent opportunities to ditch important initiatives. I refer to the regulatory convergence which is included in the TTIP negotiations.

Regulatory convergence comprises three main processes. The first process is mutual recognition of standards by two trading blocs. The second is harmonisation of standards. The Government and the EU will make much of the fact that EU food production regulations are much higher and more stringent than those in the US, which will benefit us. However, if mutual recognition is followed by harmonisation, the harmonisation may drag the higher standard down to meet the lower standard rather than the other way around.

Regulatory co-operation is the third aspect of regulatory convergence. Under TTIP's chapter on regulatory co-operation, any future measure that could lead us towards a more sustainable food system, for example, could be deemed a barrier to trade and thus rejected before it sees the light of day. Under regulatory convergence, businesses can at an early stage try to block rules intended to prevent, for example, the food industry from marketing foodstuffs with toxic substances or regulations to protect consumers. These would typically be classified as non-tariff barriers. New regulations would undergo an impact assessment primarily tilted towards the interests of business and should it go against their interests, the report will have to cite a detrimental impact on transatlantic trade as the rationale.

The EU model gives business many tools that will allow them to object to an envisaged or planned regulatory act and even regulations under view. A regulatory exchange must take place if a party is unhappy with the effect of a proposed rule on its trade interests. A dialogue must take place and the party whose rules are under attack has no choice but to co-operate. Businesses may also propose their own regulations or seek to rewrite existing ones.

The European Commission proposes that "the Parties shall endeavour to ensure compliance with this Chapter by authorities at levels of government lower than EU Member State or US State level", i.e., municipalities and regional authorities. This would broaden the scope of regulatory co-operation to affect city planning, public procurement, natural resources and environmental policies at a very local level.

I think this process of regulatory convergence would render ISDS redundant in the long term as business will effectively be able to intervene at the drafting stage of new regulations or legislation, bring forward their own proposals for legislation or regulation and bring forward amending proposals for existing regulations. At the very least, having revealed pending rule changes and given careful consideration to the response of business, governments would be susceptible to regulatory chill brought on by the perceived threat of ISDS cases if the corporations did not agree with what they proposed.

We must look at TTIP negotiations and all other free trade negotiations in the context of globalisation and the growing inequality across the world. Deputy Boyd Barrett outlined how 63 people hold more wealth than half the population of the rest of the world - 3.5 billion people. The growth in income inequality across the world has deepened as all these free trade agreements have rolled out. There is no doubt that TTIP is another step along that road to strengthen that inequality and for that reason alone, we should oppose it.

3:05 pm

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, United Left)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

It interesting that we are having this debate when the wealthiest people in the world are congregating in Davos to discuss the world economic situation. The recent Oxfam report, which showed a massive and increasing transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, was interesting. People have mentioned different numbers. The figures I have show that 62 people, 53 of which are men, have as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the world's population - 3.5 billion people. The top 1% now own more than the other 99%. What a world we are living in when we have a situation where that amount of wealth has been transferred to that top 1% over the past decade. An Oxfam spokesperson said that this accelerating inequality was the result of policy choices and I agree with him. These policy choices are the same policies being negotiated in TTIP.

Essentially, TTIP is about strengthening the position of transnational corporations and further weakening the rights of workers and trade unions. I am not the only one who believes this. Many trade unions and non-governmental organisations also believe it is happening. It has been kept behind closed doors since 2001 and only when people started asking questions were governments, ministers and MEPs forced to step out of that dark room. It seeks to open up public services to these corporations and to reduce regulation across a wide range of matters like food safety, the environment, banking and the rights of national governments.

Deputy Pringle mentioned mutual recognition and harmonisation. I am particularly concerned about food safety. I believe TTIP will attempt to introduce EU standards closer to those of the US. A total of 70% of all food sold in US supermarkets contains genetically modified ingredients while food sold in the EU contains none. The US allows growth hormones in beef while the EU does not. The US has much looser regulation on the use of pesticides. The EU bans 1,200 products for use in cosmetics while in the US, only 12 are banned.

The EU has admitted that TTIP will cost jobs in Europe. The North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, a similar agreement to TTIP involving the US, Canada and Mexico, has brought about the loss of 1 million US jobs as opposed to the increase that was promised when it was first initiated.

TTIP is a threat to democracy. One of its main aims is the investor-state dispute settlement, ISDS, which will allow corporations to sue governments if government policies cause a loss of profits. This is the reason why it is there. It is one of the most insidious parts of TTIP. I simply do not believe the points made by the Minister earlier and his promises on workers' rights, safety and environmental laws, public service and regulations. The entire purpose of TTIP is to weaken these areas to facilitate transnational corporations. This is why MEPs in the European Parliament voted to postpone a decision on TTIP in the summer reflecting the huge concern among ordinary people and the pressure put on MEPs. A total of 3.3 million people-----

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

On a point of information, they voted to allow the modified ISDS to go ahead based on the Commissioner's new proposals.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, United Left)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

A total of 3.3 million people have signed up to the citizens' initiative against TTIP. This is a massive amount of people. There is a massive amount of concern among people about this deal. The attempt to negotiate this deal in secrecy behind the backs of people has failed and it is now out in the open. People are increasingly aware of its contents and are massively opposed to it. I believe that as these negotiations go on, this Government or the new Government must sit down and tease out this document with every line to see how it will impact on our society. I welcome the fact that I can speak on this because I am seriously concerned about it.

Photo of Michael FitzmauriceMichael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The agricultural community has serious concerns about TTIP. When one looks at the type of regulation in the US involving the use of hormones, one can see that it is completely different to what the EU is used to. I believe that we will move towards the US model. Between hormones and all the different things they are using in the US, anyone who ever visited there will know that unless you get a bit of Irish meat, some of the meat out there is brutal. It is widely acknowledged not by me but by different farming organisations that if this goes ahead, it will put the farming community, particularly small family farms, under severe threat. Do we want that to happen? When we joined the EU, we had 300,000 farmers. Now we have 100,000 or 110,000. Do we want to wipe it out because of TTIP?

It is acknowledged that given the way this is going, Ireland will be shafted when it comes to multinationals because with the joined-up partnership between the EU and the US, they can sidestep Ireland. We need to be wise to this. The IDA is trying to bring in multinationals. It is known that it is expressing real concerns about it. Why do we not listen to these, acknowledge what is going on and stall the ball until things are done properly? I would be very much opposed to it.

Looking at the figures, SMEs would be under threat as well. We must look at the overall picture around the world. Something is not right about big corporate entities being able to take a government to court. Smaller countries like Ireland will suffer.

Everything needs to be gone through line by line. It would not be good for Ireland to be part of TTIP. Europe is negotiating it but we should have a veto, some way of pulling the plug on it. Many Members of the European Parliament opposed it in their debates on it. Something is wrong when that comes from all sides in politics. Approximately 3.5 million people have signed the petition. They have not done that for the craic. Politicians everywhere have a responsibility to listen to people. There is no point regretting something we did wrong. Let us make sure we do something right. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation needs to go to the European Commission and express the concerns of the Irish people and consider the fact of what this will do to our country. Do we want to be in a market where we are overpowered? We are not able to control one beef baron in this country, never mind taking on a country that will hammer us in the meat industry, especially one of the strongest countries in the world.

Governments around Europe tend to agree with whatever the European Commission says it is doing. The day has come to call a halt to that and make sure that we represent our people and country, not big corporate interests and not to fall into the hands of America. We can do deals with America. We export a lot of goods to America and there is no problem doing so. Why then are we going down this other road, putting so much at risk? We should stop it now. The EU is trying to take away many of our powers but we should use whatever power or veto we have to block this.

3:15 pm

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank all those who contributed to the debate. Very few spoke in favour of the agreement, which is disappointing. We should all have concerns and Deputy Fitzmaurice said we need to protect our defensive interests. There are sectors that are vulnerable to change, agriculture and beef in particular, although the dairy sector sees huge opportunities in this.

We have to be very careful because in any negotiation, whether between employers and workers, or others, there is always potential for gain and for concession. The overall agreement must suit both sides before it is finally agreed. There are negotiations on the several chapters but the overall deal has to satisfy people. Much of the debate has taken the worst possible conception of all the elements. Every multinational is being portrayed as a company obsessed with corporate profit and trying to undermine standards for consumers, workers or the environment.

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Is there one that does not?

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The Deputy was not here for the whole debate. There were many such criticisms. In Ireland 187,000 people are employed in multinationals. Most of them set the standards in respect of the quality of the working environment. Most are exacting about the quality of consumer and environmental standards they observe in running their businesses because they recognise that success, and that of any company, is built on its reputation for protecting workers and their environment. We should not portray this trade agreement in terms of men in black hats and men in white hats, of extreme powers trying to undermine our society. The truth is that two governments are coming together to see if the interests of the American people can be served by getting better trade flows with Europe. The people representing Europe are considering the areas where there could be improvements to our mutual advantage.

Each side has different concerns. We come wanting to see that our companies get a chance to bid for public procurement in the United States. We have many wonderful software countries that could add great value if they could have fair access into some US contracts but they are kept out by America’s policies. Deputy Fitzmaurice knows better than most that the medical devices industry is very strong in the west of Ireland. Someone who develops a medical device would like to see it recognised fairly quickly to promote it into the US and not to have to replicate all the tests to prove its worth for EU standards, at significant cost, in the US. There are genuine opportunities for good companies to develop real changes that would help everyone.

The investment protection will not affect our right to make or change laws in Ireland. Most of the commentary from our colleagues who have sadly left the Chamber inferred that under investment protection, there was an opportunity for companies to prevent governments from changing regulation. The treaty states:

1. The provisions of this section shall not affect the right of the Parties to regulate within their territories through measures necessary to achieve legitimate policy objectives, such as the protection of public health, safety, environment or public morals, social or consumer protection or promotion and protection of cultural diversity.

2. For greater certainty, the provisions of this section shall not be interpreted as a commitment from a Party that it will not change the legal and regulatory framework, including in a manner that may negatively affect the operation of covered investments or the investor’s expectations of profits.

It states very clearly that no company can challenge the right of the Government to change laws for environmental, health or workers’ protection. That is written into the agreement, which is in the public domain. I hear talk that this is being done under cover, there is no transparency but the documents are there for anyone to read.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, United Left)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

They have only been there for the past 18 months.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

There are some restricted documents. The EU is sharing all its proposals openly. The US will not release all of its negotiating position because there are some details on the quotas that might be exchanged that will be an issue for the very end. There is horse-trading at the end of any deal and people will not show their bottom lines at the start. Some things will not be revealed.

There has been a lot of commentary on the ideologies that separate us. I welcome our different ideologies and a genuine debate about this. However, what I find frustrating about the debate is that no matter what our ideology it should not blind us to the text and what changes are proposed, yet much of the discussion ignores issues such as water. It is explicit: the EU-US agreement will exclude water.

In all EU member states, services considered as public utilities at a national or local level may be subject to public monopolies or to exclusive rights granted to private operators. That is copper-fastened into the text we already know about. However, a few moments ago we heard Deputy Boyd Barrett pretend it was not there. We have to be honest about the debate. I am all in favour of more time to discuss this and tease it out, as many people suggested. I have gone to all the committees and talked to their members. I am happy to do that. If I am here in a position of responsibility I will continue to do that. In response to Deputy Fitzmaurice's question, I go to Europe to set out our concerns and investigate how particular items might affect us.

Some people highlighted that a number of governments, including the Irish Government, have suggested that we should not be stampeded into dropping the ISDS without considering what an ISDS might do for it. I think that was absolutely the right thing to do. An investor dispute settlement system can protect small Irish companies trading with companies the US and have multiple states in which to deal. It can be a good arrangement to protect them if they are being subjected to the sort of abuse I cited in my earlier speech.

It is highly restricted. A company must be subject to discrimination in a blatant form. It is worth reading them out again. There must be a denial of justice in criminal, civil or administrative proceedings; a fundamental breach of due process, including a fundamental breach of transparency; manifest arbitrariness; targeted discrimination on manifestly wrong grounds and so on. Those are the only circumstances in which a company can take a case to an ISDS.

When an organisation goes to the ISDS, the system will be overseen by people who are either judges or fit to be judges. The procedures will be transparent. There will be an appeal mechanism to an independent system where the US and the EU, representing the peoples of both jurisdictions, agree to the format of the court. This is not some special deal to allow corporations to change laws and distort the will of ordinary citizens and the European Union has sought to set that out.

I do not want my explanation of what is there and how it addresses some of the Deputy's criticisms to be portrayed as saying I go in dewy-eyed believing everything in this agreement is alright and we should sleepwalk our way to signing up to it - by no means. We need to look at every line and every element. That is why our officials are out there every month cross-examining the negotiators to see what is happening in different areas, protecting our interests and ensuring that when this deal is hopefully agreed, it will bring benefit to all our people.

I know Deputy Wallace is no longer here. I would love to debate what he described as general equilibrium models, which he tells me a first-year student would know are useless. General equilibrium models are what they say on the packet. They are an attempt to model how this might work. They are not absolutely accurate and just give broad signposts. There are no broad signposts in this agreement that suggest it will undermine employment, reduce wages, undermine environmental standards or any of the other things portrayed about it. Anyone looking at this who seeks to see the signposts, sees benefit in it but also warns us that we need to protect ourselves and look at sectors that are vulnerable. We need to support those sectors if challenges come their way. That is the approach I will take.

I thank the Deputies for their participation. This will remain a very hot topic in the future. I hope that we can share some of the documents that are out there so the debate is at least focused on the genuine contents of the agreement rather than some of the strawmen that have been portrayed here today.