Wednesday, 5 October 2016
Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement: Motion
That Seanad Éireann:
being concerned:- that the European Commission proposal that EU member states should sign or support, in the coming weeks, an agreement allowing "provisional application" of the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, CETA, between Canada and the EU;
- that the CETA is one of a "new generation" of trade agreements which includes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, and that the EU Trade Commissioner has described the CETA as a "milestone" and the "most ambitious Trade Agreement the EU has ever concluded";
- that the CETA would introduce, for the first time in Ireland, an investor court system which could place significant charges on public funds;
- that there has been a lack of clear public communication as to the exact or agreed scope of "provisional application" in relation to the CETA;
- that an important case is currently being taken at the European Court of Justice, ECJ, regarding the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement and whether member state ratification is required for its implementation - a ruling is expected in 2017;
- that the Irish Government has acknowledged that "the outcome of this case will have an impact on the scope of provisional application" of the CETA;
- that, given this anticipated change in the scope of provisional application, the Irish Government is not in a position to fully assure the public that provisional application will not open Ireland up to potential investor court system procedures;
- that according to Article 30.8.4 of the CETA, should either the EU or Canada terminate provisional application of the CETA, companies would still have three years during which they could use investor court system mechanisms to sue member states, including Ireland;
- that there has not as yet been appropriate impact assessment as to the potential implications of the CETA across a number of key areas, including public procurement; and
- that although the precautionary principle is an important aspect of EU regulatory practice, the term "precautionary principle" does not appear anywhere in the CETA;recognises:- that strong public concern has been expressed within Ireland and across Europe in relation to the CETA and similar "new generation" trade agreements such as the TTIP: this includes serious concerns raised by health organisations and those working in the food sector, growing community activism and firm opposition to the CETA from environmental groups and unions, including the Irish Congress of Trade Unions;
- that there is strong opposition to the CETA among local authorities across the EU, and in Ireland a growing number of local authorities, including Clare County Council and Dublin City Council, have declared themselves "CETA/TTIP free zones";
andcalls on the Government:- to neither agree to sign up nor authorise "provisional application" of the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, CETA, or any associated invocation of Article 218.5 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU; and
- to uphold Article 29.5.2oof the Constitution which states “The State shall not be bound by any international agreement involving a charge upon public funds unless the terms of the agreement shall have been approved by Dáil Éireann”.
I call on the Government not to agree, sign or authorise provisional application of the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, CETA, between the European Union and Canada. I welcome the support from the Labour Party, Sinn Féin and many Independents who have co-signed the motion. It is a sign of the seriousness with which the issue is taken that we have such unity across many parties and groupings of the left. There has also been wide public concern about this issue. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has expressed its concerns; environmental groups have been strong advocates and community groups such as Uplift have also campaigned very strongly on the issue. They are part of a wide movement of concern across the European Union and in Canada. I welcome some of those interested in this issue to the Visitors Gallery and also acknowledge those from the food industry and small businesses who are concerned about the potential impact of the agreement.
I will shortly deal with the motion which relates to the specific question of provisional application. First, however, I want to pull back a little to focus on what is the CETA. It is known colloquially as the Canadian TTIP, partly because of its similarity with that agreement, the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership which has caused huge protests around the world and now seems likely to fail owing to the concerns expressed. It is called the Canadian TTIP partly because of this similarity but also because it may serve as a back door for over 40,000 US companies that are registered in Canada and which would be able to avail of the provisions of the agreement. Effectively, if we implement the CETA, we will be bringing through the majority of the provisions of the TTIP.
It is interesting that the concerns expressed have been echoed at local level in councils. For example, Dublin City Council, Cork City Council, Clare County Council and a growing number of other local authorities have been expressing their concerns, yet, while it seems shocking, this is the very first debate we have had on the CETA in the Oireachtas. It is taking place almost at the last minute, just before the Government signs to give provisional application on 19 October, yet it is I who have had to call for this debate. The Government has not facilitated any meaningful debate whatsoever in the Oireachtas on the issue.
To return to the provisions of the CETA and the TTIP, both agreements are part of a new generation of trade deals. It is important to state from the outset that the motion is not in opposition to trade deals. Many of us are very strongly in favour of trade deals. The opposition is to the new generation of trade deals which offer unique and new protections and advantages to investments and corporations in areas of public policy and regulation.
The first point is that it is not business as usual because the CETA goes further than any other trade agreement we have signed. The EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, said:
The agreement reached with Canada is a milestone in European trade policy. It is the most ambitious trade agreement that the EU has ever concluded...
This is not business as usual. One unique and very important feature of the CETA is that it is based on a negative rather than a positive list approach. Taking a positive list approach, the norm in international trade, means that both partners set on the table the issues they wish to discuss. They indicate the trade sectors, areas, industries, services and products on which they wish to engage. The negative list process, on the other hand, means that everything not explicitly taken off the table can be assumed to be covered by the treaty.
What has been taken off the table is notable. Germany submitted 25 pages of exclusions, while Ireland submitted a meagre five. Canada has made a point of protecting areas of culture, health and education, as have Germany and many other countries. Some Nordic countries, for example, have made a point of protecting the control of pipelines and other resources. Ireland has protected the Kings Inns, the Law Society of Ireland, flour milling, intercity bus routes and a small handful of other areas.
Turning to concerns about regulation, the regulatory measures will be affected because either party, the European Union or Canada, can request a review of any regulatory initiative at member state level. That is a new hoop. Even as we talk about taking away bureaucracy, it is new hoop for governments to jump through as they seek to improve regulations in areas such as employment, the environment, equality issues and so on.
There are also concerns about the language used. While the right to regulate appears within the text, there are questions about the regulation involved. The phrase "precautionary principle", a core element of EU regulation - the idea that we should do no harm - is not mentioned.That language does not appear anywhere in the 1,500 pages of the CETA text.
Moreover, there is the chilling effect, in regard to regulation - it comes to our key, most common and largest concern - of the investor court system. Replacing the investor dispute settlement mechanism, ISDS, we have with the investor court system that will allow corporations to sue states not only for loss of profit but also for loss of future expected profit. Therefore, the expectations of companies of how they would like things to go will trump the expectations, demands, desires and expressions of concern of voters and citizens across Europe. Elected representatives will have to consider not only the demands of citizens but also what a company is expecting. How will that translate into action in ISDS cases? There are hundreds of cases; I will not enumerate them, as I imagine others will touch on them, but I will mention just two because this is about giving a blank cheque.
The Ecuadorian Government decided not to renew a contract with the Occidental Petroleum Corporation and the fine placed on it was $2.3 billion. It did not renew the contract because of findings made in regard to oil spills and severe health and safety breaches, yet when the Occidental Petroleum Corporation took an ISDS case, it was awarded $2.3 billion from one of the most poorest countries in South America. The TransCanada Corporation is engaging the United States in a dispute mechanism because it believes President Obama's decision which was based on climate change concerns to discontinue the Keystone pipeline is overly burdensome on its companies and expected profits.
There are cases on fracking and a wide range of issues. We have heard about the cases taken against Egypt when it sought to raise the minimum wage on the loss of profits to companies which managed to have the decisions quashed. This, therefore, is a chilling and dangerous new measure which has no place in an appropriate modern trade agreement, certainly not in any country that gives any consideration to human rights and accountability.
Provisional application is the focus. I recognise that not everyone agrees with me on the CETA or the TTIP, but I have a proposal to make on provisional application, to which the Government is to sign up on 19 October, yet it does not know what it means. It has an opinion on what it means, but that opinion differs from that of the European Commission. In fact, the Commission is hearing a case on the very similar EU-Singapore deal in which it is fighting member states on the issue of member state competency. I spoke to the Commission on Monday when a representative told me that its view was that all areas would be covered in provisional application. It has agreed to treat it as a mixed agreement, recognising that there is member state and EU competency, but in its opinion everything falls into the column of EU competency. Moreover, I have received a very serious acknowledgement from the Minister in which he states clearly:
As you correctly pointed out in the Seanad, the European Court of Justice is currently considering the application by the EU Commission to have the EU-Singapore agreement treated as an EU only Agreement. The outcome of this case will have an impact on the scope of provisional application of the Singapore FTA but also of CETA.
That ruling is due in the spring, yet in October we are signing up, having acknowledged that what we are signing might change in the spring. Surely this is reckless behaviour.
I ask everybody here who wants to preserve political and policy options and ensure the public good, rather than a fear of lawsuits, will remain the centre point of our decisions to tell the Government to take a step back and say we cannot sign up to provisional application right now.
We will hear rosy scenarios being outlined. I beg to be given one minute of the time of the Senator who will second the motion.
We have a healthy trading agreement with Canada, but this is not about Canada. On the balance of trade, we sell €1 billion of services to Canada but get back almost ten times as much. There is a 2:1 ratio in exports. This is not a new market; it is one with which we have a healthy trading relationship and it will be damaged.
I second the motion and express my strong support for it. It has been placed before the House by my Civil Engagement group colleague, Senator Alice-Mary Higgins. I do not believe the Government is giving serious recognition to the impact the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA, will have on all sectors of the economy and all citizens, both now and into the future. This is an issue that is exercising the agriculture sector, in particular small farmers. Small food producers are expressing real concern. The trade union movement and environmental groups are coming out in force and extremely worried about the rights of the workforce and the impact on the environment.
The proposed trade deal between the European Union and Canada is a new generation deal. To date, it has been negotiated in absolute secrecy and is shrouded in uncertainty. It is gaining traction as its harsh impacts begin to emerge and as a result is becoming increasingly controversial. For this reason, I call on all Senators, in particular my Fianna Fáil colleagues, not to vote unthinkingly with Fine Gael in favour of provisional application of the agreement. We need more time and information to consider the effects such a wide-ranging deal will have on all areas of public policy. As an ecologist and a Senator, the issue about which I am most concerned is that of the environmental effects of this trade deal. In existing trade deals such as the North American trade deal, NAFTA, existing laws can be overridden to the detriment of protections needed to safeguard countries and their citizens. In their efforts to protect citizens states have been sued by multinational corporations. Some two thirds of the cases taken under the NAFTA are taken against those who are trying to protect public health or the environment. The Canadian Government is facing a bill of $2.6 billion in lawsuits taken by US firms while it tries to regulate the use of additives in gasoline, oppose the introduction of fracking and control harmful pesticide use. As Senator Alice-Mary Higgins said, the energy company TransCanada is suing the US Government for $15 billion because of the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline. Some 60% of such cases are settled by plaintiffs and settlements can involve the cancellation or overriding of national law. Some 42,000 US companies operating in the European Union will be able to avail of the terms of the CETA even before completion of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP.
In Ireland the effect of a trade deal like this could be to overturn or even cancel much of the Government's agenda, even as it is being developed. For example, the Government's White Paper on energy is under consideration. One proposal contained in it concerns the promotion of community energy schemes such at the one in Templederry, County Tipperary. Such schemes could come under legal attack from foreign investors who are concerned about their profits over and above the concerns of rural communities in Ireland.
Farmers should beware. We could see the prospect of Irish products being priced out of the domestic market by imports of low quality beef and chicken bred on high hormone input chlorinated carcases, with poor animal welfare management. This flies in the face of real green origins. It disregards the toil of farmers who produce premium, quality products to give way to cheap and poor quality foodstuffs from Canada.CETA flies in the face of sustainable development and makes me extremely angry. As Senator Alice-Mary Higgins stated, those who oppose the deal do not oppose trade per se. There is, however, a limit in respect of sustainability, fair trade and quality, the terms of which should not be dictated to us by a trade deal that undermines sovereignty. CETA will undermine workers' rights, environmental protections and public standards. I ask all Senators to do the right thing for the common good and support the motion. We should hold off and await the outcome of the case before the European Court of Justice regarding the legal requirements for member states' ratification of EU trade deals.
A great deal of misinformation has been circulated about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA, between Canada and the European Union, particularly on its environmental impacts and benefits for Ireland. I will address environmental issues presently. CETA will be of great benefit to Irish firms and employment and the European Union as a whole.
This deal offers a great opportunity to Irish producers and small and medium enterprises to create more jobs. As a small, open economy, Ireland stands to gain a great deal from securing access to a large market such as Canada through the European Union. I have heard comments to the effect that companies in the United States will gain access the European Union through Canada. A large number of US firms already have access to the EU through Ireland and they provide very good, well-paid jobs. We rightly welcome and support these companies.
This deal will remove more than 99% of tariffs between the European Union and Canada and create major market access opportunities in services and investment. The Canadian market is much larger than the Irish market. The agreement will provide new freedoms to trade in goods and services, reducing barriers which small and medium enterprises find particularly difficult to overcome. It will facilitate the mutual recognition of qualifications in regulated professions such as architects, accountants and engineers. Ireland has many highly qualified professionals and we value their ability to go abroad, expand their horizons and learn new techniques before returning to make a contribution in this country. The removal of barriers in this area is, therefore, to be welcomed. Exchange of information is extremely important and training programmes and postgraduate opportunities should be valued and encouraged.
CETA will make transfers of company staff and other professionals between the European Union and Canada easier. As Senators are aware, moving to a new country with a family can be difficult and traumatic. The fewer the barriers to doing so, the better. CETA will improve the ability of European companies to provide after-sales services by making it easier for firms to export equipment, machinery and software. The agreement will provide EU companies with access to Canadian public tenders, not only at a federal level but also at provincial and municipal level.
The EU and Canada have agreed to accept each other's conformity assessment certificates in areas such as electrical goods, electronic and radio equipment, toys, machinery and measuring equipment. I see opportunities in all of this, rather than something to fear. While all opportunities present challenges, has this nation not excelled at turning challenge into opportunity?
CETA will be extremely beneficial to Ireland. The agreement gives us unlimited tariff-free access for most of our important food exports to the Canadian market. This is much more beneficial to Ireland than it is to Canada. Ireland also successfully campaigned for a low beef import quota from Canada to the European Union, which safeguards our important EU market for beef. Irish firms will also have increased access to Canadian public sector purchasing.
It is acknowledged that trade barriers tend to impose a disproportionate burden on small firms. The agreement is good for Irish small and medium enterprises and it must, therefore, be good for Irish jobs. Investment from foreign companies is extremely important in Ireland. These companies provide considerable investment and create many jobs. In Fingal, my local area, we experienced this at first hand only recently. CETA will mean many more companies will want to locate activities and create jobs in Ireland. In the past five years, developments in Ireland, in particular, the marriage referendum, have helped us to present an image of the country as inclusive and open, and an attractive place to live. Canada has acquired a similar reputation internationally.
As I stated, a great deal of misinformation has been circulated about the environmental impacts of CETA. Campaigners and others, including Senator Grace O'Sullivan a few moments ago, have argued that the agreement will allow for genetically modified organisms, GMOs, and beef containing growth hormones to be exported from Canada to Europe. This is simply not true. Canadian products of all sorts will only be allowed to be imported and sold in the European Union if they comply with EU regulations. I ask Senator O'Sullivan to be truthful. CETA does not affect European Union restrictions on hormone treated meat.
The Senator referred to hormones, as the record will show.
The agreement will be highly beneficial to Ireland, a country that has emerged from a serious economic meltdown. We are in a much improved position, with unemployment down from 15.1% to 7.9%. In Fingal, unemployment has declined by 32.25% or almost one third since 2012. These facts are often attributed to emigration but that it is not the case. With more than 2 million people working, the reduction in unemployment is real. Moreover, emigrants are starting to return home, which is a very welcome development.
One area of particular concern to me, as a person who is committed to a tobacco-free Ireland, would have been any possibility that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, or the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA, would be used to circumvent our legislative process and public health policy on tobacco and plain packaging as well as the various other constraints Ireland has placed on tobacco use to protect our children from ever taking up this killer habit. The preamble text to CETA has this to say on public health: "Recognizing that the provisions of this Agreement preserve the right to regulate within their territories and resolving to preserve their flexibility to achieve legitimate policy objectives, such as public health, safety, environment, public morals and the promotion and protection of cultural diversity;".
The chapter on investment contains further references to the parties' right to regulate for the protection of public health. However, the key development is that investment protection, including investment dispute settlement, will not be part of the provisional application of CETA. The Government will oppose the motion.
I apologise for my voice today, which is not good. I welcome the opportunity to discuss the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, known as CETA, between the European Union and Canada.Fianna Fáil will not be supporting this motion as we believe an ambitious and comprehensive trade agreement will benefit Ireland in terms of increased jobs and business opportunities for Ireland. This is on the basis that, as an exporting country, Ireland stands to benefit disproportionately from the potential of expanded tariff-free market access. The opportunities presented by this agreement will be especially valuable for SMEs given that trade barriers tend to disproportionately burden smaller firms which have fewer resources to overcome them than larger firms.
CETA will remove more than 99% of tariffs between the two economies and create sizeable new market access opportunities in services and investment. It will provide Irish companies with complete access to Canadian public tenders, for example. A strong trading relationship exists between Ireland and Canada, as has been alluded to, and it is reflected in the €2.75 billion of annual trade between both countries. Indigenous Irish company exports to Canada have grown by more than 250% in the five years to 2015 at €185 million. It has been predicted that CETA will result in a €250 million increase in Irish exports per year.
Fianna Fáil supports free trade and removing barriers to trade. This is essential for Ireland to be successful. As a small open economy, we need other markets to thrive. However, we also believe that trade deals must be fair and must protect the position of states. Ensuring the protection of European standards is a red line issue which Ireland must uphold. CETA will not affect EU rules on food safety or the environment. Canadian products will only be able to be imported to and sold in the EU if they fully respect EU regulations. EU standards related to consumer protection, health, social and labour standards will remain untouched and CETA does not affect EU restrictions on genetically-modified organisms or beef containing growth hormones.
The agrifood sector is our biggest domestic industry with Ireland exporting 90% of everything we produce. We are heavily dependent on foreign market access for our world-renowned produce. Under CETA, Ireland stands to benefit from practically unlimited tariff-free access for most of our food exports, with Canada fully liberalising 95% of agricultural product imports from the EU. While increased access to the EU market was granted for Canadian beef, this was minimised to a quantity corresponding to about 0.6% - less than 1% - of total EU consumption. There is also an expectation that Canada will not be in a position to fill the beef quota allocated for the foreseeable future anyway.
Greater access was granted to the Canadian market for EU dairy products while concessions granted by Canada on market access for EU beef will be of benefit to Irish producers. It is vital that the cumulative impact of beef concessions under CETA and other trade agreements is closely monitored so that the approach continues to be in the best interests of EU and Irish producers particularly.
Fianna Fáil shares the concerns of citizens on to the controversial investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, known as the ISDS, and the ability of powerful companies to sue sovereign governments. Fianna Fáil understands the concerns of citizens regarding transparency surrounding arbitration processes and believes the Government should ensure these concerns are addressed. However, we welcome the European Commission’s proposal to lead the way in reforming the global investment regime into a public investment court system which will operate like traditional courts.
Nearly two thirds of Irish people who emigrate to Canada have third level degrees, with around 10,000 international experience Canadian visas allotted to Ireland annually. CETA facilitates the mutual recognition of qualifications in regulated professions such as architecture, accountancy and engineering, as has been mentioned, giving our highly-skilled graduates who chose to seek international work experience seamless access without any barriers.
We welcome the recent Commission decision that the full entering into force of CETA between the EU and Canada will only occur with the consent of the EU Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and significantly through national ratification procedures by member states. The EU Council - the member state trade Ministers - with consent from the EU Parliament can decide to provisionally apply CETA, as has been referred to, in those areas under exclusive EU competence, pending final ratification by agreement of member states.
These areas constitute more than 90% of the text of CETA and include the all-important chapters on public procurement, rules and tariffs. Provisional application will not apply to those areas over which member states have competence and will not apply to investment protection and investment dispute settlement. The benefit of supporting provisional application is to allow Irish businesses to avail of tariff-free benefits and new business opportunities as soon as possible. There should be no obstruction to Irish companies immediately taking advantage of the provisions of CETA which are EU competent.
Fianna Fáil welcomes and fully supports the firm commitment of the European Commission and the 27 other member states that EU standards are not up for negotiation in such trade agreements. Ireland must work with our European partners to ensure this commitment is upheld. No agreement is ever perfect. There are certainly issues to be clarified and dealt with. However, on balance, it is a good agreement for the EU with Canada and it is a good agreement for Ireland.
I greatly appreciate the Cathaoirleach's kindness. This reminds me of a story of James Joyce in which one of the characters remarks that another character would not only sell his country for fourpence but get down on his knees and the thank the almighty Christ that he had a country to sell. I find it an absolutely astonishing piece of cynicism that the Government would put in place Senator James Reilly to front this argument, who I have seen in this House making a magnificent stand against multinational corporations, in particular the tobacco companies. I would warn that these tobacco companies will take on Irish policy. We are buying a pig in a poke. What kind of idiot would sign an agreement in the next few weeks which is dependent for its interpretation on a court case that will not be resolved until the spring? In other words, the Government does not know what it is signing. This is absolute madness. The Government is giving multi-national companies control over Irish policy.
The motion has four cardinal points. The first is that there has been a lack of clear communication. During the TTIP negotiations, some European parliamentary members were reluctantly allowed into a closed room in which they could not make records of the documents they saw. There was absolutely absurd secrecy. The second cardinal point of the motion, as I take it, is as follows: "Given this anticipated change in the scope of provisional application, the Irish Government is not in a position to fully assure the public that provisional application will not open Ireland up to potential Investor Court System procedures". This is the delayed impact of the Singapore court case. In the light of these things, the Government should neither agree to sign up nor authorise "provisional application". That would seem to me to be absolutely sensible, as would upholding Article 29.5.2 of the Constitution that the State shall not be bound by any international agreement unless it is agreed by the Dáil. Let us have a bit of democracy.
An international document, from which I cannot quote because I do not have it, states that this would be a real threat to democracy. That is an internationally-established standard. With regard to the hormone-injected beef, what happens if one of the United Nations subsidiaries in Canada takes an action? In the light of the judgment of the ISDS in the past, we cannot really guarantee that it would not happen.
Allow me to outline to the House a couple of cases of what happens under ISDS. In the 1990s, Argentina embraced a privatisation scheme for its national water system. It gave it to a firm called Azurix, which was a subsidiary of Enron. Hello? Does anybody remember Enron, that wonderful sign of liberal capitalism that collapsed disgracefully? This subsidiary of Enron eventually produced filthy, undrinkable water at unaffordable rates. The Argentinian Government put something out requiring it to produce clear water at affordable rates but it was sued under ISDS and the company was awarded $165 million. A government cannot even require that a privatised company give it clean water. That is a pretty astonishing situation.
What was even more astonishing was Achmea B. V. v. The Slovak Republic. In this situation, there was deregulation of the health insurance industry and subsequent re-regulation.The arbitrators awarded €22 million. This is the crucial thing. In their judgement, they insisted that the public good and the public interest were not sufficient reasons for the Government to interfere in the free market. How is that? A government elected by the people cannot operate for the public good and the public interest because it is not sufficiently important as weighed in the balance against profit. How is that for democracy? Even modified, this ISDS system is rotten to the core and grotesquely undemocratic. It amazes me that elected or even partially elected Senators could vote in favour of this system.
What about closer to home and our own wonderful Veolia that put in the Luas system? It brought a case against Egypt that was successful. What was that all about? The Egyptian Government decided to raise the minimum wage in the interests of workers. However, the profits of Veolia are much more important than decency, justice and equal rights for the ordinary Egyptian civilians. This is what we are opening ourselves up to.
The European Association of Judges has expressed serious reservations about this situation. It says that provisions for the election, time of office and remuneration for the ICS judges do not meet the minimum standards for judicial office, as laid down in the European Magna Carta of Judges. The UN independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, has called for the total abolition of ISDS mechanisms. He noted that far from contributing to human rights and development, ISDS has compromised the State's regulatory functions and resulted in growing inequality among states and inside them.
This country is contemplating giving away control over policy in various areas - not even to other governments or the EU. We have heard so much about giving away sovereignty to the EU. This is not giving away sovereignty to another political body. It is giving away sovereignty to companies like Veolia, Monsanto and the tobacco companies.
Well if my time is istigh, I hope I have at least made a passionate argument for the Fianna Fáil Members to at least to abstain. For God's sake, can they not abstain on a motion of democracy or are they determined to hand over responsibility for politics and political decisions in this country to multinational corporations?
It is a pleasure to follow that oration from Senator Norris that was met with such resounding applause. I fear my oration will not be as rousing and will definitely not be met with applause. I welcome the Minister of State to the House and thank him for taking this debate. I look forward to his response. I commend Senators Alice-Mary Higgins and Grace O'Sullivan and the other signatories for putting forward this motion. It is a fine motion and it is vital that we debate it here in this House.
I am a committed Europhile and supporter of the EU but one of my biggest criticisms of the EU in recent months concerns something that led directly to the Brexit vote in the UK, namely, an outdated and highly arrogant approach to the way the EU does business. It is completely out of touch despite all the positives coming from the EU. The very fact that this agreement was largely negotiated in secret behind closed doors might have been due to very valid commercial reasons but, ultimately, it is no longer acceptable. Hiding things behind closed doors, giving them an incomprehensible acronym and expecting widespread public support will not happen anymore. The great political leaders in Brussels, Strasbourg and beyond need to take that on board if there is to be any chance of the EU surviving what is easily the biggest crisis it will ever face over the next couple of years. The fact is that we have not had a comprehensive discussion or indeed any discussion about CETA in this country and the discussions held so far at European level have been limited at best. I was very fortunate to take part in one of those during my time on the European Committee of the Regions as I was the rapporteur for the report on this topic. Arguments and comments that are misleading in some cases, factually incorrect in others and generally highly emotive have developed in that vacuum. It is very easy to get behind a banner with a big red line going through a couple of anonymous letters and put the case that you are looking to protect this or that but it is not as easy to put forward the case for a highly complex yet vitally important trade deal.
I make those criticisms of the EU and, with apologies to the Minister of State, of my own Government because I am not only a strong supporter of the European process but I have no problem in admitting and putting on the record that I believe strongly that CETA is a really good deal. It is a good deal for Europe, Ireland, Canada and, most importantly, the people of the EU and the countries mentioned. Very few people are prepared to actually go out and bat for more trade, freer trade and better trade because that is what we need now. Facing into this time of absolute economic uncertainty, the last thing a small open trading country like Ireland needs to do is close itself off from the very things that allow us to navigate these choppy waters and assert ourselves in the global world.
I have no problem with the first three points in the motion. I agree with them but I believe competition is good when we are looking at public service provision, procurement and tender. I dare say that if we had a bit more competition and privatisation in the bus market, we would not have sat through as many days of strikes in the capital city.
It seems to be the case that whenever people decide that they are going to take the self-righteous approach and put themselves on a moral pedestal, when one comes back with a counter argument, one sometimes gets booed. This is an institution of democracy and we are allowed to give our opinions. They are not exactly radical. I am not looking for us to turn our backs on certain sectors of society. I am putting forward a decent, heartfelt and thoughtful political position so if others want to heckle and reduce this to an argument between five-year-olds in the playground, so be it but it does those who heckle and this debate no service.
I am. Senator Norris, someone for whom I have huge respect who has been in this House for possibly longer than I have been alive, has no problem heckling others but does not like it when they strike back. Well, I am making a bit of a strike back. I have no problem standing up here. People will heckle me but I have no problem in saying that I am a politician from the centre right. I believe in free trade, competition and allowing Irish companies to sell more things to more people across the world. I believe that half of the conspiracy theories dreamed up by elements-----
There you go - more five-year-old behaviour. Half of the conspiracy theories dreamt up are done so because nobody is prepared to stick up for the other side of the argument. I am issuing a challenge to the Government, the leaders in Europe, business leaders, farm leaders and the vast majority of people this deal will benefit to get out there and tackle the naysayers and the misinformation.
A couple of issues have come into this. The motion says that this is a huge attack on local government. I note that the five initial signatories never sat on local government, something I had the privilege of doing for seven years with Senator Horkan in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and at European level on the European Committee of the Regions where I had the honour of leading the Irish delegation.We discussed this and we saw that the impact on local and regional authorities and government throughout the European Union of trade deals such as CETA, TTIP and the South Korean deal that is the model for best practice have an overwhelmingly positive effect. Just because motions were passed by just two local authorities in the Republic, in Clare and in Dublin city, we are meant to take at face value the statement that this is negative to local government or local authorities. It is not.
I decided to engage on this matter. During the week I attended the briefing by Congress. I apologise that I was not able to make Senator Higgins's briefing, but it was purely a life administration issue rather than any boycott. At the briefing by Congress, someone asked me would I not have the decency to put CETA to a referendum. This whole notion of direct democracy and that we throw everything to a referendum is absolute rubbish because, at the end of the day, if CETA is put to a referendum, we know we will not be discussing CETA; it would be a referendum on mad ideas like abortion on demand and conscription into a European army. We have seen that too many times, so I disagree fundamentally that CETA should go to a referendum. Neither the Social Welfare Bill nor the Finance Bill goes to a referendum.
No, I absolutely trust the people. I trust them to elect representatives to govern on their behalf based on the mandate they sought. The mandate I sought, when I sought election at local authority and Seanad levels, was to deliver more jobs and a stronger economy. I absolutely disagree with this motion and I compel all sensible-thinking people from all parties and none to vote against it. I thank the Minister of State again for his time.
Tá an-áthas orm a bheith in ann tacú go láidir leis an rún seo. Creidim go bhfuil cuid mhaith raiméise ráite, ach go háirithe ag an Seanadóir a labhair romham, maidir leis an gcomhaontú áirithe seo. Senator Horkan finished his remarks by saying, "No agreement is ever perfect." However, it appears the confidence and supply agreement is certainly holding water tonight in the Seanad, that the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael coalition on this issue is very evident and that there is very little difference of opinion between them on these matters.
To pick up on-----
There are five year olds on all sides of the House tonight anyway.
To pick up on a point made by Senator Richmond about the people in Europe who should be fighting the battle on behalf of CETA and be batting on its behalf, maybe they do not have the confidence in it to do so. Maybe if they were so confident in it, they would be batting on behalf of CETA. We in Sinn Féin have had serious concerns about this agreement from day 1 and have been very vocal on it. I welcome the opportunity to speak on the motion and I am delighted that the Sinn Féin Seanadóirí have all signed up to support it.
I raise the fact that the negotiation process for CETA, as has been said, and TTIP has been marked by secrecy and a lack of transparency. My colleague, Matt Carthy, MEP, had to fight tooth and nail to gain access to documentation relating to the negotiations. When he finally achieved this, he had to view the documents in a secure reading room in Brussels. It is ironic that the likes of Brian Hayes, MEP, extol the virtues of free trade and openness in respect of TTIP yet refuse to afford the same freedom of information when it comes to the agreement itself. There is also a democratic deficit in Ireland in this regard. By all accounts, the Dáil will not get an opportunity to debate or vote on any agreement. Given that the Oireachtas has no mandate in this regard, it is highly worrying that the Minister, Deputy Mitchell O'Connor, wrote to Commissioner Malmström to urge the European Commission to press on with CETA and TTIP. On whose behalf did she write? Many councils and local authorities have also passed motions vowing not to adhere to or be bound by the agreements.
There is an argument that the entire process also runs counter to Bunreacht na hÉireann. Nach bhfuil sé aisteach gurb iad an dream céanna a chaith a dteanga ag rá go gcaithfear an Bunreacht a chosaint i gcónaí le linn na coinbhleachta ar an oileán seo ach anois atá sásta an chumhacht sin a ghéilleadh.
Given that TTIP was effectively defeated by people power, we now see an attempt to fast-track CETA so that the momentum cannot be built up in a similar way. We in Sinn Féin, both here and in Europe, have been and will be highlighting how CETA is as bad as, if not worse than, TTIP. It contains threats to agriculture, consumer rights and employment. There has been a lack of debate in civic society on the issue. Any attempts to raise concerns are dismissed as attempts to damage Ireland's reputation internationally. I must point out that it is mainly Fine Gael Deputies and MEPs who seem hell-bent on stifling any public debate. The fact that these negotiations are taking place away from the public gaze allows some of the more repugnant elements of the deal to slip under the radar. The investment court would worry most people if they were fully aware of it. Once again the Government is behind public opinion, and I warn it that on the last few occasions it has pressed on with initiatives in spite of public opposition, it has been forced into embarrassing climbdowns. We have with this motion an opportunity to constructively guide the Government away from another disastrous situation.
Part of the blocking of the debate in Europe is due to the Fine Gael group in Europe having blocked the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development from setting out a formal opinion on CETA. It is important that the committee noted that CETA will allow 50,000 tonnes of Canadian beef to enter the EU market, much of which will displace Irish exports. How much of that debate has happened with the Irish farming sector? Farmers were not allowed to put forward formally their views on the deal in advance of it being made. Matt Carthy, during the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development discussions on the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, warned that deals such as TTIP, CETA and Mercosur pose direct threats to job creation and threaten traditional farming models in rural areas. There may be a sense that this will only affect Irish farmers, but I attended a meeting in Europe on TTIP with American farmers - small farmers and community farmers - who are equally as concerned about the implications of negotiations and deals such as TTIP and CETA on their incomes and that we are corporatising the industry and handing it over to the big corporations to do what they will.
Can the Minister of State tonight confirm to us that he is not concerned that fracking or fracking companies could in future use this investment court to sue this country if fracking is not allowed on the island of Ireland? Can he give us that commitment 100%?
I note as well that during the discussions about TTIP there was much talk about trade and investment, etc., but very few economists could show the net job gains that would come from TTIP. I argue that there is a similar situation with CETA. We will see many smaller businesses go to the wall and amalgamation of businesses and multinationals taking over and corporatising smaller businesses. It will affect small operators in both countries.
On the issue of constitutionality, could the Minister of State tell us whether he or the Government got legal advice about referring chapter 8 of CETA, which concerns investment, to a referendum? Perhaps he might talk to us about that because Matt Carthy got legal advice in April that the chapter on investment protection would require a referendum before it could be signed into Irish law. The creation of a permanent investment court removed from any national accountability for the benefit of international investors and multinational corporations, we believe, will infringe on our Constitution and be to the detriment of our citizens. Mr. Carthy has sought meetings with the Minister, Deputy Mitchell O'Connor, to present these legal findings but to date she has declined and refused to meet him. I find it very strange, if she is acting in the Irish national interest and in favour of debate and checking out all the options, that she has refused to meet Matt Carthy on this issue to consider the legal advice he has been given.
Contrary to Senator Richmond's note on people standing up for CETA at a European level, a number of European organisations have come out against CETA, including the European Trade Union Confederation, Friends of the Earth, the European Consumer Organisation and the European Anti-Poverty Network.
I believe that agreements such as CETA and TTIP are part of the race to the bottom and a push across the world to dilute workers' rights, turn labour into more of a commodity and diminish the role of trade unions across the board. Therefore, we are wholeheartedly in support of this motion, we commend the Senators for having tabled it and we call on Fianna Fáil to reconsider its position. I did not see the acronym "CETA" in the confidence and supply agreement so I am not sure if it is totally tied into that-----
If Fianna Fáil Senators cannot bring themselves to oppose the motion, they might abstain. Particularly in light of the fact that we are waiting for a court determination in April, they should not buy a pig in a poke and sign up to an agreement at this stage when they do not have the full facts on the issues involved. Cuirim an méid sin os comhair an Tí agus tá súil agam go dtacóidh na Seanadóirí ar fad leis an rún.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak in favour of the motion tabled by Senator Higgins. Regardless of where one stands on the substance of this new-generation trade agreement, we should be extremely cautious as legislators about how we proceed. As this is a mixed agreement the Dáil, under the treaty rules and as required under our own Constitution, as I understand it, is required to have a say on whether it is to be passed into law. The Dáil has not yet had that opportunity and I firmly believe it would be very unwise of Ireland to assert its support for any provisional application on this matter until there is a full and open debate and a decision of the Legislature on what we are to do with it. That is why the Labour Party Senators and I support the general thrust and ambition of this very timely and well-considered motion.
The CETA has an enormous scope and its impact will be felt way beyond industry. I hope the debate today shines a light on some of the potential implications and consequences for public policy-making, regulation and sovereignty from the terms of the proposed agreement. I spoke last night about the Labour Party's support for the Government's decision to challenge the European Commission's view on the Apple issue. We spoke of protecting both our sovereignty and our reputation and I hope the Government can apply the same principles to its consideration of this proposed agreement. As the Department's own briefing notes state, "CETA covers virtually every aspect of economic activity". On the face of it, with 99% of tariffs between Canada and the EU set to be lifted, there would appear to be very clear benefits for Irish business and Irish jobs, particularly in the context of the need for Irish businesses to broaden their horizons in the very uncertain and difficult Brexit era.
On mutual recognition of professional qualification standards and on addressing the costs and barriers associated with double testing, the agreement would appear to be very positive and something with which anyone who is interested in economic growth would find some favour. However, these are not the areas on which the public here, across Europe and, to some extent, in Canada have expressed concern. With citizens having become increasingly more disconnected from decision-making and feeling more disempowered, it is entirely understandable that trade unions and NGOs should raise concerns about the creation of new policy innovations such as investment court systems, which appear to me to provide gold-standard, first-rate protections for multinational corporations and investors. There are no similar protections or supports for enforcing better labour standards and it is at least peculiar that the agreement provides for the establishment of an investor court system between trading blocs which already have some of the most progressive and advanced judicial and court systems in the developed world. I have yet to receive an explanation for this and there is a suspicion that this innovation provides very privileged status to investors and elevates the rights of corporations above and beyond those of citizens and the public interest.
There is a lot of rhetoric in this agreement on labour standards and labour rights but the references thereto are neither enforceable nor binding. Canada has yet to invoke many ILO conventions and the labour element of the CETA is not covered in the general dispute settlement provisions of the agreement, something which tells us an awful lot about its purpose and scope. Where there is a dispute over standards, the only requirement the CETA appears to have is for the parties to engage in toothless, non-binding consultations, and we know where that gets us. There are many examples of the capacity of globalisation to transform people's lives and to work for the betterment of communities. We should not go down the cul-de-sac of saying that all globalisation is bad as that is evidently not the case. However, on reading about what some elements of the CETA seek to achieve, I wonder if the lessons of the past decade of economic and social catastrophe, following the great recession, have been learned or understood.
There are few people in this Chamber who have worked harder with business than I to create jobs and I have worked with trade unions and others to improve labour standards in this country. I know the Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Pat Breen, is also working hard in this area and I have every confidence that he will deliver in this regard. I do not want our hard-won gains to be diluted in any way by agreements that will not be subject to the scrutiny of this Legislature. We are elected by the Irish people to make these decisions and it is important that this Parliament has a full and open role in deciding whether nation states endorse such agreements. I urge caution on how we proceed to apply this proposed agreement, which I predict will be caught up in debates in the European Parliament and national parliaments for some time to come. Along with Labour Party colleagues, I am happy to support this motion, particularly the call to closely scrutinise its provisional application.
This is the first time the Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Pat Breen, and I have been in the Chamber at the same time. I congratulate him on his appointment. He has hit the ground running in his role and is bringing to bear all his experience as Chair of the foreign affairs committee and deputy leader of the Irish delegation to the Council of Europe.
Modesty prevented that but I am glad the Acting Chairman stitched it into the record of the House. It was my great privilege and honour to succeed the Minister of State in that role and I try to emulate the good work he did. He gained a huge reputation in Europe from that role.
We had a debate earlier today on Brexit and on how the sterling factor could jeopardise a number of our businesses and traders. We talked about the need for a Brexit-proofed budget and a strategy to deal with Brexit, both at sectoral and national level. In the context of that debate, the confirmation of a trade deal with Canada can only be good news because it opens up another theatre of business for an open economy such as ours, with the prospect of more trade, interaction and exchange. There is massive business potential from this deal. There is a popular idea that farming interests could be prejudiced but John Whelan, the chief executive of the Irish Exporters Association, has confirmed that he sees no risk to Irish agriculture from this deal.
That is also good news to be added to this.
I was very pleased to hear Senator Nash confirm his confidence that the Minister would defend workers' rights, trade union laws and domestic protection of workers and their negotiating position and standards, and his confidence in the Minister's anxiety to defend these areas. I was impressed by that fact. It is very non-partisan of the Senator to say that but it is also very true. I believe we have robust worker protection in this country, and rightly so. Those rights were hard-won and include the right to strike, to free assembly, to union membership, to the minimum wage, to regulation of hours and to health and safety laws. These protections are correct and need to be built on, advanced and enhanced. If we have a civilised society, the rights of our workers have to be a core value. However, I believe those rights are sufficiently robust and sufficiently indigenous and ingrained, and I do not see this agreement prejudicing that in any way. I am happy on that score.
The agreement was launched in May 2009 and political agreement was reached between the EU and Canada on 18 October 2013. The negotiations concluded and were formally welcomed by the joint statement of the EU-Canada summit on 26 September 2014. The summit schedule for 27 October 2016 is to achieve the signing of CETA. I believe that will be a very good development for this country and for Europe, in particular for mutual trading opportunities. There is a market of 500 million in the current EU and this will greatly expand the potential market. We are well placed geographically to take advantage of trading opportunities in a European context.
On 14 September the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Mitchell O'Connor, along with 11 other Ministers from the member states, wrote to Commissioner Malmström. The letter welcomed the conclusion of negotiations and the signing of CETA on 27 October and subsequent provisional application of the agreement. The agreement was discussed at the informal Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministers meeting in Bratislava on 23 September 2016. Member states highlighted the high quality of the agreement reached with Canada and reaffirmed their desire to work towards signature of the agreement at the EU-Canada summit envisaged to take place in Brussels on 27 October 2016. A further extraordinary meeting of the Trade Council is likely to take place on 18 October in Luxembourg in order to make a decision on CETA. The agreement will be made available for signing by member states.
Given the position taken by Ireland and other member states, the European Commission will submit CETA to the Council for decision as a mixed agreement. This means the agreement contains provisions that fall under both EU and member state responsibility. It will be a matter for the Council and the European Parliament to decide on the signature and provisional application of CETA. Following a decision by the Council, with the consent of the Parliament, it will be possible to provisionally apply CETA. The Dáil will have a role in that its full entry into force will be subject to the conclusion by the EU through a Council decision with the consent of the Parliament, and by all member states through the relevant national ratification procedures. This means the Dáil will be part of the final decision to ratify the agreement. In that sense, it will be truly democratic.
CETA is a new and exciting opportunity for our exporters and indigenous businesses, for trade and for all aspects of Irish exports. It is an expanded market which, as an open economy, we need. It is also something of an antidote to the depressing talk around Brexit. I believe our robust worker protection and the place of workers' rights in domestic law and established practice will hold, and will be defended by every citizen and by our Parliament. It is a good day's work. I am personally completely in favour of the agreement and personally delighted when there is an opportunity to enhance the living conditions of our people through any trading agreement.
I thank Senator Higgins for bringing this motion before the House. No matter how we look at CETA, it is clear the agreement undermines the public good and threatens public services, everything from health and energy to social services and transport. We should not now or ever see the provision of essential public services as a potential market, whereby corporations can make a profit. Trade agreements such as these set their sights on public services as an opportunity to take advantage of Irish citizens in order for corporations to make money, even in an era of record corporate profits. CETA, however, goes even further as it also serves to restrict governments from the creation and expansion of public services and the restoration and proper regulation of those services.
Have our recent and disastrous experiences of poor regulatory practice, particularly of the financial sector, taught us so little that we will blindly sign up to an agreement that encroaches so significantly on our regulatory practices? Ultimately, what CETA does is challenge a government's ability to make decisions on how best to provide for the public. It allows for corporate interests to be represented like never before in those decision-making processes.
CETA is objectively the most far-reaching and wide-ranging trade agreement that Ireland has ever been party to. Moreover, public services are affected in a number of ways by CETA through obligations imposed on investments, cross-border trade and procurement, as well as market access. CETA does not ensure that the parties committed to the agreement will remain free to provide and regulate services, for example, the services we provide to Irish citizens. Essentially, what we will experience is a reduction in public policy space and in the ability of a state to control what happens within its own borders. In return for this huge reduction in our internal sovereignty, we receive the dubious reward of increased market access for foreign corporations and the protection of the rights of foreign service providers, even if that access and those protections are to the detriment of our domestic interests.
Under CETA, only a few public services will be excluded from the liberalisation of the market. As it stands, investment protections will restrict the capacity of governments to expand public services, or even to create new public services, due to the potential of these decisions to impact on commercial interests. There are no two ways about it: CETA clashes with elected governments and the ratchet clause constrains governments' ability to restore privatised services to the public. If a government was to attempt to pull services back into the public arena once foreign investors are established, then compensation claims are imminent. This is, in fact, the bolting in and copper-fastening of privatisation. The provision of services at a local and national level and government scope to regulate those services is in jeopardy. CETA threatens the public good and the regulation that serves the public interest.
This is not business as usual, as some would have us believe. Previous trade agreements listed the services and sectors they would agree to cover, which is called a positive list. What we are seeing with CETA is a system using a negative list. This means that services and sectors pertaining to investment or trade are automatically covered unless otherwise set out. This is a feather in the cap of corporate lobbyists and potentially opens the Irish State to a dizzying array of legal attacks from hundreds of corporations across every major industry.
CETA is not a good deal for Europe. I call on all Members to support the motion until Ireland completely understands the far-reaching effects of this trade agreement and what the true scope of provisional application entails. The Government has admitted we are not fully aware of the scope of what we will agree on in a few short weeks. We are signing this agreement blind. Not only is it irresponsible, it is potentially dangerous.It is impossible for any party and any politician to claim to be a champion of strong public services yet support the provisional application of CETA. They are completely incompatible. Our public services are threatened by CETA and it is incumbent on us all to respond to and neutralise the threat. I ask all of the Senators to support the motion and call on the Government to not agree to the provisional application of CETA.
I commend Senator Norris on bringing up the issue of tobacco health warnings and CETA.
As we all know, according to the World Health Organization tobacco kills almost 6 million people annually. The 2005 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control advocates numerous regularity measures to restrict tobacco marketing and promotion. The multinational tobacco industry has opposed these measures, launching numerous trade challenges to strike down public health measures designed to reduce tobacco consumption.
In 1994, Canada drafted new legislation requiring manufacturers to sell cigarettes in plain packaging, based on evidence from the public health community that industry advertising linked logos and images on cigarette packages with attractive, sophisticated lifestyles and thus encouraged smoking. Despite the health rationale, Canada abandoned plain packaging, fearing it would lose a trade challenge from US tobacco interests. Had the legislation passed many Canadians might not have started smoking. Canada's abandonment of this policy tool provides a clear warning that trade agreements can undermine health policy. This matter greatly concerns me as CETA might deter Ireland from adoption restrictions on marketing or labelling on tobacco products. The great work done by Senator James Reilly and Deputy Micheál Martin in addressing the health implications of tobacco use must not be put in jeopardy by our signing of CETA.
Other labelling requirements are also at risk. Phillip Morris initiated arbitration to stop Uruguay from placing graphic images of smoking victims on cigarette packages. The threat of trade litigation has deterred countries from implementing health measures already enacted such as tobacco control. The New York Times recently noted that Uruguay and Uganda, as two examples, have failed to implement their tougher anti-smoking legislation fearing expensive tobacco trade challenges.
Alcohol causes numerous health and social problems. With the imminent adoption of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill I am concerned that the health warnings and restrictions on marketing, included in this Bill, would be liable to challenge by the major alcohol producers. While current Irish regulation may be protected any new regulation on smoking or alcohol will be at risk.
CETA is unlike any trade agreement that we have signed before and must be considered cautiously and carefully. The so-called negative list in CETA, that my colleagues have mentioned, means that all public sector areas are included in the agreement unless explicitly ruled out by the Government at the start of negotiations - a first for an EU trade agreement.
Ireland has added very few areas to the negative or excluded list. Health care, with the exception of nursing homes, for example, was not excluded and, therefore, health care will be subject to the CETA rules. My understanding is that these rules will allow companies to sue governments for compensation in private arbitration when laws interfere with their profits. This is a matter of huge concern to me.
This morning, I spoke at the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare. I called for transformative investment in homecare with robust regulation, a legal entitlement to guarantee access and proper workforce planning. I have a very real concern that the provisional application of CETA could impinge on this State's ability to regulate homecare that is currently unregulated and, therefore, affects the most vulnerable people and people going into their home. The provisional application of CETA could impinge on our State's ability to regulate homecare. As such, regulation or transformation will undoubtedly impact on the profits of international private providers already operating in the market. I call on Senators from all sides of the House to support the motion.
I thank the Senators for tabling this important motion. The issue crosses over between the public and private, the vested interest and the public interest and, therefore, we must discuss the matter.
I have some knowledge of the CETA agreement having read about the subject and also from what I observed in Canada as my wife is Canadian. I know that prior to the last general election in Canada the then Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. Stephen Harper, sold the agreement to Canadians as part of his re-election campaign.
Who benefits the most? Is it Canada or Europe? Should we benefit equally? The trade deficit between Canada and Europe must be considered. Canada trades more with Europe than vice versa.Canada is just short of 10% in terms of its overall trade with the EU whereas the EU's overall trade with Canada is currently just under 2%, so there is room for growth. I am always of the view that Ireland needs to expand into new markets, open up corridors of trade and have more movement of goods and people.
I do not know enough about the CETA deal that is being put together. It is a complicated trade agreement with all of the European member states and with provincial or federal governments as they are known in Canada. In order for the deal to be passed it must be approved by 36 autonomous units of Government.
We have not read the details of the final product yet. This month the European Commission hopes to have a finalised approval on the table from the Council of Ministers, then it goes before the European Parliament with co-decision and then each of the relevant national parliaments would then debate the deal. The proposal must be translated into the official languages of the European Union before that occurs. A lot of negotiation must take place. One could argue that today's motion is premature but I do not think so and believe it is very relevant. There are major consequences if the deal is approved. I listened in my office to some of the earlier speakers such as Senator Norris.
I am concerned at the way the European model works and how it conducts its business. Unfortunately, when one centralises power one also centralises access to power in terms of lobbying and so forth. One can go to Brussels on any day of the week where one will discover the best paid lobbyists in the world working there, whether in pharma or big business. Those lobbyists work in Brussels because it is the crossroads of power in Europe.
Will the agreement centralise power? I am not sure. I do think that we should have this debate and that this House should debate the agreement somewhat further after the final details have been published. Research on the trade deal has been commissioned. Depending on who funds the research, different opinions will emerge.
Following a cursory look at the deal I am left with questions about the provision of big business being able to capture national Governments within the EU and provincial governments in Canada. One of the articles of the trade deal allows for governments to be sued. These questions require clarity.
Another issue is financial regulation. Senator Norris referred to Enron in the US. I am concerned about the ability to capture, or lack of regulation, in terms of financial services in the US. Regulations in the United States are totally different from European regulations because they are legislative-based and Europe's are based more on rules. Differences exist even though Canada has a different set of principles in terms of the regulation of the financial services sector. We cannot allow different regulations to rule. We cannot allow big business to be able to subvert money out of one jurisdiction and into another jurisdiction just to comply with equity requirements to satisfy shareholders. I have not received answers to these questions and do not see that there will be any forthcoming.
There are other interests like tourism. Also, issues were raised by the parliaments in Romania and Bulgaria about visa access for citizens and the fact that some European member states can obtain visas for Canada while others cannot. I am not sure if that is the case. Questions have been raised about these matters and answers have not been forthcoming.We should always grasp the opportunity to develop trade links with other countries and jurisdictions, but in this case I have reservations and a mixed opinion. There is a lot of detail and there is a need for clarification. We are a member of the European Union and if it was getting things right, we would not have a Brexit in the aftermath of the referendum. We all hear it on the street from our electorate that bureaucrats in Brussels are making decisions that are beyond the scope or remit of democratic politics and perhaps that is the case with this deal. There was much debate in this House this evening about decisions being removed from democratic accountability. There is a darker side, whether we like to admit it, where big business can capture those who have centralised power, whether in the Commission or elsewhere. We should stand up against and question this. That is why a motion such as this is absolutely important. We should never be afraid to question consensus, particularly where so much money and trade deals are involved. I may be wrong, but I am not sure pushing this to a vote is the right thing to do; I would actually rather see this issue being kept alive rather than being killed tonight in a vote. Perhaps this is a matter into which we should delve more. I would love to see this Chamber actually scrutinise what is happening in the European Union much more. I remember when former Senator Maurice Cummins was Leader, I made a suggestion that the Seanad should sit just one day a week to scrutinise EU legislation and what was happening in the European Union, but there may be another platform on which we could do this. We only find out about all of the laws made in Brussels when they impact on us, whether it be special areas of conservation, SACs, or health inspectors operating under European Union law, etc.
Fair play to the Senators who tabled the motion. There is a lot of information provided in it. There are lorry loads of text that need to be scrutinised. I do not believe it can be properly scrutinised in a four or six minute contribution. However, I would be very happy to play my part.
Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis an gCathaoirleach Gníomhach. I commend Senator Alice-Mary Higgins and the Civil Engagement group for tabling this important motion and welcome the chance to speak to it. I am glad to see that it has received broad support from other Senators.
I wish to outline my deep reservations concerning the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA. These reservations are also held by European civil society organisations, trade unions, consumer organisations, anti-poverty networks, NGOs and farming organisations, European organisations that have the best interests of European peoples at heart. It may not be widely known that there are also deep reservations within Canada and civil society groups there about the deal. The Council of Canadians has published a report containing many concerns within Canada which I will address.
Why are there such deep reservations about this and similar deals among such a broad base of civil organisations? This deal was negotiated and developed behind closed doors. Why is such a deal, with has massive implications for the economies and business sectors of all European member states, being conducted and negotiated in this manner? Where is the transparency and what is there to hide? The single biggest group in Ireland which will be affected by the deal is farmers. The CETA will allow 80,000 tonnes of pork and 50,000 tonnes of beef to be released tariff free into the European Union. We have Senators who eloquently argue the case for the farming community almost every day that we sit in this Chamber. Can those who will vote against the motion not join up the dots? Ireland's agriculture sector is far too important and under enough pressure as it is without entering into this deal and failing to carry out adequate due diligence to fully investigate the full consequences. If the Government was to put up a fraction of the resistance to this deal as it did in rejecting €13 billion, plus interest, from Apple in a positive ruling for citizens from the European authorities, we would be in a much better place and truly looking after citizens' interests.
There are many concerns about the ratification of this deal, but I will concentrate on agriculture. The main concern, apart from the implications in terms of economic activity for farmers, is the impact on food safety standards. There are significant differences between the regulatory practices of Canada and the European Union that could jeopardise EU food safety and production standards. EU farmers will now be competing with a Canadian agribusiness sector that has no animal welfare penalties to face and much lower safety standards. This is an absolute kick in the teeth for Irish farmers who are on the verge of collapse from the weight of bureaucracy and paperwork that they face as a result of EU regulations. Canada has a very different agricultural model from that in Ireland. There are not the numerous green family-run farms that take absolute pride in their homesteads. In Canada there is large-scale agricultural production, with half of all food produced coming from just 5% of farms. The report from the Council of Canadians details areas where Canadian regulations are much weaker than those in the European Union - genetically modified foods, pesticides, food dyes, chlorinated chicken and hormones. The Fine Gael Party, through its representatives in the European Parliament and its actions and behaviour, is selling out Irish farmers and the people. My colleague in the European Parliament, Matt Carthy, and the GUE-NGL group recently put forward a proposal that would have allowed the agriculture and rural development committee to submit a formal opinion on the CETA deal, but it was blocked by the European People's Party, of which Fine Gael is a member. I ask the following questions again. Why did this happen? What is there to hide? Where is the transparency?
I reiterate my support and that of Sinn Féin for the motion. I call on the Government to respect the democratic rights of the citizens of this state, to bring the issue of ratification of the deal before the Dáil and the Seanad, if necessary, and, under no circumstances, to agree to its provisional ratification within European Union structures.
On the point made about people being centre-right, left or centre-left, in fairness to the Civil Engagement group, the track record of its Senators across civil society in Ireland is beyond question. Without a shadow of doubt, Senators represent the best interests of the people, with a balance of views across society. Let us consider their counterparts in Canada against the interests of big business. Let us be frank - there is the debate in the United States about Wall Street against main street and access to the corridors of power, be it in Washington DC, Brussels or Ottawa. That is what dictates what is included in these agreements. Those are the interests that are being protected. If the Government is stating that is not the case, conduct the negotiations in open and clear view and heed the genuine concerns and opposition of civil society.
I have heard kind words from the Senators who will vote against the motion. They spoke about how wonderful and commendable motion it was. I ask them to vote with the Civil Engagement group and against big business. I ask them to vote in favour of the interests of those who represent the views of the Irish people rather than the corporations, the representatives of which hide in the corridors of power to gain access to those in power in the major political centres, be it Brussels, Washington DC, Ottawa in this case and elsewhere. That is the choice for the Senators iin question and how they vote will speak volumes about where their priorities lie.
I thank all 14 Senators who contributed to the debate on the motion this afternoon, whether they supported it or were against it. I also thank the Senators who came to listen to the debate, but did not speak. I also thank, of course, the proposer of the motion, Senator Alice-Mary Higgins. We debated this issue before in the Seanad Chamber, when I realised her special interest in this subject.
Senator Higgins said Ireland has a healthy trading relationship with Canada, which is correct, but we want to make the relationship even better. There are new opportunities and frontiers coming on board and new air links between Ireland and Canada being put in place. We want to be ready to seize those opportunities in the challenging environment in which we live at the moment.
I ask all Senators present to remember three aspects of the CETA agreement. Both Senators Richmond and Ó Clochartaigh referred to a number of issues. Senator Richmond referred to the EU-South Korea agreement that was finalised four years ago. Again, widespread concern about that agreement was aired at the time. That is democracy and that is important. However, when we look at the statistics relating to Europe and South Korea over that four year period, exports of goods and services from the European Union have risen by 55% and 40% respectively. Those figures speak for themselves on what a good trade agreement can do. Further, we do not need to take just what politicians are saying on board. Independent studies from across Europe and Canada have shown that CETA will boost trade and investment. The last thing I want to note is that every €1 billion in exports from the European Union supports 14,000 jobs in the European Union. We all talk about employment and jobs in today's challenging environment, but we need to bear those figures in mind because they are important.
I cannot respond to every Senator who contributed today but I have listened attentively to all of them and taken notes on their concerns. However, the text of CETA, as well as that of TTIP, has been publicly available for the past six months on the Commissioner's website. I wish to make that clear.
I welcome the opportunity to address the Seanad on this major transatlantic agreement which will be of significant benefit to Ireland. It is part of the EU's global trade agenda to harness and improve globalisation through progressive agreements with third countries. Expert-led growth and foreign direct investment has transformed Ireland's economy. It is now time to take the next step forward in trade by working with our EU partners and third countries to jointly grow prosperity for all our citizens.
The global economy is changing in many ways and making trade more important than ever before. Ireland is an open economy. We export 80% of what we produce. We therefore need ambitious, modern and progressive trade agreements. We need agreements which protect our values and high standards, such as the protection of labour rights, as Senator Nash has stated, and environmental standards, as Senator O'Sullivan has stated. We need to have trade agreements which benefit small firms and citizens. SMEs were mentioned here this afternoon. This is particularly true as a result of the UK referendum. There was little mention of Brexit this evening, I thought there would be far more mention of it.
Trade agreements provide opportunities for Irish-based firms to further diversify their export markets. CETA is a comprehensive free trade agreement that will remove tariffs between the EU and Canada. It will create new business opportunities in services and investment. It is a modern, high-standard agreement with the ability to set a new global standard for trade agreements. It will end limitations in access to public contracts, open up markets for services and offer predictable conditions for investors.
CETA is about benefitting people and business - big and small. It will save on duty costs, as 99.6% of all industrial tariffs will be eliminated on entry into force of the agreement. Irish firms will benefit from the recognition of product standards and certification, saving the double-testing on both sides of the Atlantic. This is of particular benefit to smaller firms, which can ill-afford to pay for the same certification test twice.
Ireland has also successfully campaigned for the low beef import quota from Canada into the EU, thereby safeguarding our important EU market in this area. Ireland, on the other hand, has secured full, unrestricted access for Irish beef and other meat products into the Canadian market. That is very important. We have unrestricted access into the Canadian market whereas the Canadian beef coming here will be restricted. The first 35,000 tonnes carcass weight will be allowed tariff free, but thereafter there will be tariffs.
We speak about Ireland and our exports. Let us be positive about brand Ireland. It is a huge selling point for us all over the world, particularly in regard to our food. CETA has the potential to keep prices down and provide consumers with a greater choice of quality products. These are some of the benefits of the trade deal with Canada as well as providing new market opportunities for Irish firms. For example, an Irish software start-up in the telecommunications sector is seeking to expand into the north American market. CETA provides for the expansion of visas for intra-organisational employee transfers from 90 days to a maximum of three years. It will allow the Irish company to establish a presence in the market by sending an employee to Canada. In addition, CETA opens public contracts to Irish tenders, so this Irish software start-up will be allowed to bid for both federal and sub-federal public contracts.
Another Irish company is supplying the Canadian market with specialised construction materials. CETA will eliminate 99.6% of industrial tariffs applying to Irish companies exporting to Canada. For certain construction products, this will result in the immediate reduction of 7% in tariffs. CETA's provision surrounding the intra-organisational transfers will also be of benefit to this Irish company.
Irish firms exporting to Canada will have an opportunity to improve their after-sales and maintenance-related services by sending engineers and other specialists to Canada. Professionals may be accompanied by their spouses and families when temporarily assigned to subsidiaries abroad. Contractors may stay in the country for a period of 12 months instead of the current six months. The EU and Canada will, for the first time, agree to accept the products standards and certifications currently upheld in both jurisdictions. This means that a conformity assessment body in Ireland can test Irish products for export to Canada and vice versa. As a result, Irish companies can expect to benefit from savings as they will not be required to undergo the double-testing on both sides of the Atlantic. There is a clear opportunity for Irish firms and I want to see them move quickly to benefit from the advantages which we have negotiated.
I would also like to address some specific issues raised during the debate on this motion. Given the position taken by Ireland and other member states, the Commission has submitted CETA to the Council for a decision as a mixed agreement, that is, one requiring both EU and individual member states ratification, as outlined by some of the speakers here this afternoon. As that process may take a number of years to complete, the agreement provides for provisional application. Provisional application is a standard process in free trade agreements. It provides for the coming into effect of those areas over which the EU has competence. The European Commission is currently finalising the text of the provisional application of CETA for submission to the Council for a decision. It will be a matter for the Council and the European Parliament - remember the European Parliament has to decide as well - on the signature and the provisional application of CETA.
Following concerns raised by a number of EU member states - Senator Higgins referred to Germany - all those concerns have been addressed because they have been omitted from the provisional application. I repeat that the EU now proposes not to apply the provisions in the agreement relating to investment protection and investment dispute settlements. This will be confirmed by a legally binding declaration between the EU and Canada. The text of the declaration is currently being finalised.The declaration will also provide further assurances that public services and the EU’s high standards in health and safety will not be affected by CETA. I will be attending a meeting of EU trade Ministers in Luxembourg on 18 October 2016 to decide on the signature and provisional application of CETA and to approve the joint declaration. Senator Norris said an idiot was going there, so I am the idiot to whom he was referring. That is his opinion. It is a pity he is not present to hear my response. He would learn a little more rather than jumping in and out to talk.
The full entering into force of CETA will be subject, in the first instance, to a Council decision, with the consent of the European Parliament. Second, it will be subject to the approval of all member states through the relevant national ratification procedures. In accordance with Article 29.5.2° of the Constitution, Dáil Eireann will be part of the final decision to ratify CETA. By virtue of this, the proposed investment court system can only come into effect once ratified by a vote of the Dáil. The basic laws and principles of the European Union, including the precautionary principle, will not be affected by CETA. CETA will not affect EU rules on food safety or the environment, which was a concern of some of the speakers in the debate. As is the case now, Canadian products will only be able to be imported and sold in the EU if they fully comply with EU regulations. Senator Grace O'Sullivan referred to that issue. CETA does not affect EU restrictions on beef containing growth hormones or genetically modified organisms, GMOs. CETA will not restrict either the EU or Canada from passing new laws in areas of public interest such as the environment and health and safety, which is of extreme importance.
CETA provides the basis for a future dialogue between the EU and Canada on policy developments. The regulatory co-operation forum is a voluntary co-operation mechanism. It cannot change existing, or develop new, legislation and does not have any decision-making powers. It can only make recommendations to regulators and legislators. Any initiative entailing a change in EU regulations can only be introduced and pursued outside the CETA framework. CETA affirms governments’ right to organise or regulate public services like the water supply, health or education. The state will be able to keep public monopolies for a particular service if it wishes. Nothing in CETA prevents the state from deciding which services it wishes to keep universal and public, and if it wishes to subsidise them.
With regard to public procurement, CETA will eliminate the imbalance between the EU and Canada. The EU procurement market is already de factoopen to Canadians. This includes the sub-federal level. The access for EU firms in Canada is very limited. For the first time, Canadian provinces, territories and municipalities will open their procurement markets to a third country. Canada’s provincial procurement market is estimated to be double the size of its federal equivalent. Canada will also create a single electronic procurement website that combines information on all tenders, which corresponds to existing intra-EU arrangements. This would greatly facilitate the effective access of firms to procurement opportunities in Canada. Making the trading landscape easier is particularly important to SMEs to internationalise and grow exports. Trade barriers tend to disproportionately burden smaller firms, who have fewer resources to overcome them than larger firms.
I support and welcome CETA. It is very important for Ireland. Given our historical economic and cultural ties, Ireland’s enterprises are particularly well placed to take up opportunities to trade more easily with Canada. This morning I attended the opening of Enterprise Ireland’s annual International Markets Week, along with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor. International Markets Week is Enterprise Ireland’s single largest client event, where more than 140 international market advisers from over 30 Enterprise Ireland overseas offices will hold meetings with over 400 client companies on developing new global export plans in the context of Brexit. This event is just one example of the importance of outward looking and open trade for Ireland. The Canada agreement and the EU’s other trade agreements are key instruments to assist the work of Enterprise Ireland in supporting Irish enterprise.
The total value of Irish exports to Canada is €1.874 billion per year with total imports of €542 million. Ireland is the fourth largest recipient in the EU of foreign direct investment from Canada. The value of our exports could increase substantially with this new trade deal. I support the provisional application of CETA as I am keen for Irish firms to enjoy the tariff free benefits and new business opportunities as soon as possible. CETA and the EU’s other trade agreements help to open new markets, break down barriers and provide new opportunities for Irish firms. For these reasons, I support the signature and provisional application of CETA and oppose the motion.
I thank Senators for their contributions to the debate. It was a lively, constructive and colourful debate, which is what we wish to see in the Seanad in the future as well.
I thank the Minister. Hillary Clinton spoke two months ago in Michigan. She is a former champion of the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, which was in many ways the template for these trade agreements and was one of the first of the new generation of trade agreements to be passed with these types of mechanisms. She has now changed her position. She now opposes TTIP and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, and acknowledges, in speeches such as the recent speech she gave in Michigan, that: "It's true that too often, past trade deals have been sold to the American people with rosy scenarios that didn't pan out and promises that now ring hollow." We have heard a number of rosy scenarios outlined by the Government today. We even heard that this might be seen as a positive antidote to all the depressing talk about Brexit. I cannot agree that we are facing a rosy scenario. I fear that if we plough ahead with provisional application, there might be considerably more depressing talk in the future.
I will respond to some of the points raised by the Government's spokespersons. With regard to some of the areas that were lauded as areas of opportunity under the agreement, such as agribusiness, today we have representatives of the food industry and small businesses in the Visitors Gallery who are extremely concerned. Darina Allen, Irish members of Euro-toques and those in the food and high quality food industry have been almost uniform in their opposition to this. Our Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, at the Council of European agriculture Ministers, called for an impact assessment to be carried out. That impact assessment on what CETA will mean for agriculture is due at the end of the month, but we are planning to sign before we get the assessment we demanded. That is our current position on agriculture. With regard to universities and university opportunities, it is notable that the Irish Federation of University Teachers is clear about its opposition to this deal and specifically about its opposition to provisional application.
In terms of the overall benefits, rather than speaking about jobs and opportunities, let us consider what the analyses show. Analysis from Germany shows that we might see, over ten years, a 0.03% to 0.08% increase in European GDP, largely concentrated in the larger northern European countries, which is €20 per citizen after ten years. Of course, that GDP may be added to our 26% GDP. There is no guarantee that the GDP increase will reach our citizens. Can we take that risk for such a small estimated gain?
I will not go into the detail of regulation, but I believe Senator Reilly knows that we are facing dangers in the area of regulation. While existing regulations might be protected and there is a right to introduce new regulations, that comes with the risk of the court system and must jump through the new hoops. There is a clear provision in CETA that allows corporate stakeholders to make their views heard on regulatory initiatives on the same basis as other stakeholders, for example, citizens. The court systems in Canada may be wonderful, but the court system we are discussing here has nothing to do with Canada's open society or its values. The press release issued by the European Commission states that this a step towards the EU's ultimate goal of a global investment court. That is what this is about, not Canada.
I respect Senator Richmond's thought and consideration, and there are many areas relating to Europe on which we agree. However, I was disappointed that he dismissed so many points as conspiracy theories.I believe the points I have put forward are not conspiracy theories. I have looked at the text of CETA. I have entered the private and special reading rooms. We have one in Dublin and I would encourage every elected representative to visit it. I have looked at the text of TTIP and the text of CETA. I am very confident that the clear points I am putting forward are of concern. Some points were addressed but points that were not addressed included concerns regarding the courts systems; the ratchet clause, which means that we cannot have real competition between public and private because the Government cannot choose to place an area under public provision if it has been previously under private provision; and the negative and positive lists.
It has been said across the House that this is a new departure. It is a very serious change in how we do trade. That has not been addressed. There are constitutional issues. I have raised different constitutional issues with the Minister of State. I appreciate that he referenced them again this evening. They differ from the issues of concern raised by Sinn Féin. I still believe those constitutional issues may be outstanding and I ask that the Attorney General be consulted in respect of them.
While I welcome the new declaration that may come on Friday, it will be meaningless unless it is a new legal position by the European Commission. The European Commission says that it has decided to propose CETA as a mixed agreement but this is without prejudice to its legal view as expressed in the case currently being examined by the European Court of Justice. Until we have a different legal view from the European Commission, and I urge the Minister of State to fight for that view and its inclusion in this declaration, we still have a situation in which provisional application may jeopardise our constitutional obligations. If we decide to that there are concerns about this agreement and to leave, I note that under Article 30.8.4 of CETA, there will still be a three-year period in which companies will be allowed to take cases. These cases put a public charge on our State that could violate those constitutional concerns.
I thank everybody for their participation in the debate and their kind words on this subject. Unfortunately, I am unable to leave this open and will push for a vote but I would encourage Fianna Fáil to raise this again and have further debate.
- Frances Black
- Rose Conway Walsh
- Maire Devine
- John Dolan
- Paul Gavan
- Alice Mary Higgins
- Colette Kelleher
- Denis Landy
- Pádraig MacLochlainn
- Rónán Mullen
- David Norris
- Grace O'Sullivan
- Trevor Ó Clochartaigh
- Niall Ó Donnghaile
- Aodhán Ó Ríordáin
- Lynn Ruane
- Fintan Warfield