With European MEPs voting on the Canada-EU CETA trade deal this Wednesday, Irish independent and Sinn Féin MEPs are urging Fianna Gael to join them in rejecting it. The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement is a wide-ranging deal which Greenpeace have called “a threat to environment and public health”, but which its supporters say will open new economic opportunities.
Sinn Féin's MEP Matt Carthy says the deal will have negative impacts for farmers: "Coupled with other EU trade deals coming down the line CETA will be devastating for Irish agriculture, farming families and rural communities. An EU Commission study has predicted a “steep drop in beef meat prices by between 8-16%" as a result of CETA and similar trade deals.”
Over 80 Irish civil society groups oppose the deal, including the Environmental Pillar, the International Small Business Alliance and the Irish Cattle and Sheep Alliance (ICSA). The ICSA president Patrick Kent said 5% of Canadian farmers produce 50% of its food and CETA would allow Canada's “lower standards on the use of antibiotics, steroids and hormones in animals destined for the food chain” into Europe.
One of its most controversial elements will see the creation of investor courts where businesses will be able to sue national governments for making decisions that affect projected future profits. Under other international trade deals, these courts have seen multi-million dollar awards against governments acting in the national interest. The Ecuadorian government was ordered to pay oil giant ConocoPhilips $380m, for taking over national oil reserves to which the company had claims.
Being subject to such courts could have devastating impacts for Ireland. For example, if a future government ever wanted to revisit the terms of Ray Burke's infamous giveaway deal, which has led to our national oil and gas resources being effectively owned by multinationals. CETA could also make it very difficult to restrict drilling along ecologically sensitive coastlines, as investor courts might see environmental protection as inhibitions to business interests.
Luke Ming Flanagan said in a statement: “The truth is, as has been learned through bitter experience by nations worldwide, the hungriest and the greediest of those global corporations will find a way to either a) force through their own agenda (be that fracking, GM food, hormone-boosted beef) or b), sue national governments not just for lost investments but for any and all profits they believe would have accrued from those investments.”
Matt Carthy also suggested the deal might breach the Irish constitution: "Legal advice that I have received suggests that the ratification of a trade deal that includes an Investment Court would breach the Irish constitution. It is entirely unacceptable that the EU Commission intends to ‘provisionally apply’ key aspects of the agreement immediately before national parliaments have any say on it.”
He added, “Fine Gael is cheerleading this dangerous deal without explaining how and why it came to this position. It is not too late for Fine Gael MEPs to change their stance. All Irish MEPs must defend Irish jobs, businesses and farmers by voting against CETA next Wednesday."