What’s been happening with the CETA trade deal?
Back in February of this year, CETA – the controversial trade deal between the EU and Canada – was the subject of an emergency motion unanimously passed by Clare County Council
The motion – which called on the Irish Government “to allow a full, open and democratic debate, including pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Oireachtas Committee”, ahead of the Dáil vote on ratification of CETA – was initiated by Clare PPN, on foot of a request by a majority of member groups in our Environmental College.
Clare PPN member groups were very concerned at the lack of public debate and political scrutiny of CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) and were particularly troubled by the Investor Court System (ICS) element of CETA and the ‘regulatory chill’ effect it would have on policymaking on a wide range of issues, including the environment, public health, economic and human rights.
Several other local authorities passed similar motions at about the same time. These, and a broad civil society campaign against CETA’s investor court system, resulted in the Government referring the matter to the the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs for further scrutiny. Several other Oireachtas committees are also scheduled to scrutinise the ICS element of CETA before a vote on ratification.
A Dáil vote on ratification of CETA had been due to take place in December in 2021 but was postponed when several Green Party TDs indicated they would vote against it. There is still no word on when the Government may try to have CETA ratified by the Dáil, but in March Green Party TD Patrick Costello lodged a High Court challenge against the Government over the constitutionality of the parts of CETA that provide for the establishment of ‘investor courts’. His case is that the investor court system involves an unconstitutional transfer of sovereignty and judicial power. A hearing date of July 13th has now been set for this High Court action, which is scheduled to run for four days. You can read more about the court case here:
Earlier this month (June), Sinn Féin Senator Senator Lynn Boylan also launched a High Court action against the Government’s implementation of CETA. Although similar to Mr Costello’s action against the State, the legal argument is technically different. Ms Boylan’s case focuses on the committee that would be set up as part of the investor court, which she argues can amend the rules or access to the court without Oireachtas oversight. Read more about Boylan’s case here:
On May 26th, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar appeared before the committee on European Affairs to answer questions about CETA. He argued that delaying ratification would send a message of a “waning commitment to free trade”. Committee member, Independent Senator Alice Mary Higgins said that she found it surprising that there has not been a risk analysis on the impact of CETA on the national finances. Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan said that the investor court system’s costs would be “quite substantial”. She said that France, Germany, Netherlands and Italy among others had not finished ratifying the treaty, so it was not the case that Ireland was “a laggard”. The committee is continuing its scrutiny of CETA.
You can read more information about CETA prepared by the Comhlámh Trade Justice Group:
Clare PPN press release
Tuesday, 9th February, 2021
Emergency motion on CETA passed unanimously by Clare County Council
Motion brought on behalf of Clare PPN calls for full democratic debate and Oireachtas scrutiny of EU-Canada trade deal
Clare County Council has unanimously passed an emergency motion that calls on the Irish Government “to allow a full, open and democratic debate, including pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Oireachtas Committee, ahead of the Dáil vote on ratification of CETA.”
Clare Public Participation Network (PPN) had written to Councillors last Thursday, asking them to bring the motion, on foot of a request by a majority of member groups in Clare PPN’s Environmental College, who were very concerned at the lack of public debate and political scrutiny of CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), a trade deal between the EU and Canada.
Proposing the motion at Monday’s (8th February) Council meeting, Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) thanked Clare PPN for bringing the motion to her. She warned that the element of CETA due to be voted on by the Dáil, including the Investor Court System (ICS), allows multinational companies to “go straight to special tribunals, bypassing our court system and gives rights to corporations to sue national governments for compensation for loss of expected future profits.”
Seconding the motion, Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) said that while he feels trade agreements are, “by and large, positive things, what does concern me here is the lack of public debate, legislative scrutiny and very low levels of understanding around the ratification of CETA and specifically the merits if any of the Investor Court System for Ireland. Will the ratification of CETA tie our hands with regard to introducing progressive social and environmental legislation?”
Cllr Murphy pointed out that most of CETA has been in place since 2017, and that the final element, including ICS, is “not necessary here in Ireland and will not deliver one iota of benefit for the country.”
Reacting to the passing of the motion, Theresa O’Donoghue, Co-ordinator of Clare Environmental Network, a PPN member group, said: “Members of Clare PPN have serious concerns about the lack of public and political debate and scrutiny of CETA. An issue such as this, that will have far-reaching consequences for future generations, must be properly discussed and publicly debated. We are very happy that our County Councillors in Clare respect that and we thank them for standing up for that principle.”
“Clare PPN member organisations are particularly troubled by the Investor Court System (ICS) element of CETA and the ‘regulatory chill’ effect it would have on policymaking on a wide range of issues, including the environment, public health, economic and human rights. No party has made any convincing case for why we need investor courts.”
Several other local authorities have passed similar motions relating to CETA in recent days, including Cavan, Monaghan, Leitrim and South Dublin councils.
The motion in Clare was signed by 16 members of Clare County Council: Donna McGettigan (proposer), Cillian Murphy (seconder), PJ Kelly, Ann Norton, Pat O’Gorman, Mark Nestor, Tony O’Brien, Michael Begley, PJ Ryan, Alan O’Callaghan, Pat Hayes, Ian Lynch, Clare Colleran-Molloy, Shane Talty, Bill Chambers and Susan Crawford.
Three other Councillors, Johnny Flynn, Joe Garrihy and Joe Killeen also spoke in favour of the motion. Nobody opposed the motion.
Notes for editors:
Clare PPN is a network of more than 300 community, voluntary, environmental and social inclusion groups from Clare. It exists to facilitate the formal participation by the community sector in Clare County Council’s decision making structures. It is funded jointly by the Department of Rural and Community Development and Clare County Council but is autonomous and its activities are directed by its members through an elected secretariat.
Clare PPN’s website is www.clareppn.ie and they are on Twitter @clare_ppn and https://facebook.com/clareppn/