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Council seeks full examination of CETA

THE agenda for Clare County Council’s meeting on Monday was temporarily set aside, as members considered a special motion, asking for Government to allow a full and open debate, including pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Oireachtas Committee, ahead of a Dáil vote on the ratification of CETA.

CETA stands for Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, a free trade deal between the EU and Canada.

While most of the public would be unfamiliar with it, there are grave concerns in certain quarters about a provision in CETA for an Investor Court System, that would open the door for companies to sue countries for the loss of expected future profits. It is feared that this would allow companies to take legal action if countries change legislation to preserve and enhance the environment, in a manner that limits the earning potential of those companies.

Sixteen members of the Council signed Monday’s motion and it was introduced by Sinn Féin’s Donna McGettigan.

She complimented the Clare Public Participation Network for making contact with her on the matter, and voicing her concerns about CETA, she said, “It allows investors to go straight to special tribunals, bypassing court systems, and gives rights to corporations to sue national governments for compensation for the loss of expected future profits. A company is going to say we were expecting this profit, and if it doesn’t come in, the country could be sued.Roughly half of the member states, including Germany, France and Italy, have yet to ratify this section of the CETA and they’re having ongoing legal and political debates over it. We here need to allow for a full open and democratic debate on this by a Joint Oireachtas Committee ahead of a Dáil vote. There’s no point in us sitting back in a few years questioning why we allowed this to happen when our Government are going to be sued.”

Fianna Fáil’s Cillian Murphy also expressed his worries about CETA. “I just want to put on the record that I have no issue with trade agreements, by and large they are positive things. What does concern me here is the lack of public debate, legislative scrutiny and, quite frankly, very low levels of understanding around what the ratification of CETA will mean, and the merits, if any, of the investor court system for Ireland. Will the ratification of CETA tie our hands with regards to introducing progressive social and environmental legislation?”

The Kilkee man added, “Much of this trade agreement has already been in place since 2017, but only after we ratify the treaty will the investor court system come into play, and every single thing I have read leads me to believe this investment protection is actually unnecessary here in Ireland and will not deliver one iota for the country. We are a long standing stable democracy, one of the top ten in the world, we have an internationally enviable record of foreign investment into the country without this protection being in place already, because we have a mature judicial system and we’re part of a wider European judicial system as well. There is already plenty of investment protection in place and our FDI record is testament to that. So why do we need to sign up to this and what might we be giving up in return?”

The motion was passed unanimously. Clare Public Participation Network issued a statement after Monday’s meeting, welcoming the Council’s decision.

Several other local authorities have passed similar motions relating to CETA in recent days, including Cavan, Monaghan, Leitrim and South Dublin councils.

Owen Ryan

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.