The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has become a problem for the government in recent weeks. With the Dail vote delayed in December to allow for further debate due to the opposition posed by several Green Party TD’s. Since this delay this trade agreement between the EU and Canada has created a storm of opposition, in the form of TD’s resignations, social media campaigns and of course songs. This deal is detailed and complex with the policy document spanning up to thirty chapters but what does CETA really mean?
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement is a free trade deal between the EU and Canada.It took five years to negotiate (2009-2015) and was signed in 2016. Some elements have already been implemented these include removing customs checks and qualification recognition for several professions.For CETA to come into full effect it must be ratified by each parliament of the european states. So far it has been ratified by just 14 other member states. The deal has not been ratified by some of Europe's key players including France and Germany.
The most controversial start of CETA is it method for settling issues with states and international companies.To put this into simple terms the multinational companies will be able to sue the state for damages if the government passes laws or policy that can damage the companies profits or reduce them in the future.These “investor” courts are outside the control of the member state and run by corporate lawyers. The fear is that this agreement will bring hesitation and fear to the policy making process.
This causes particular concern for environmentalists who are worried about the challenges that may occur when implementing policy to combat climate change. This has been refuted bacuse CETA now refers to the Paris Climate change agreement so it cannot sue governments who take actions fulfilling their obligations to the agreement,but then again the Paris Climate Change Agreement is not a legally binding agreement.
Unsurprisingly CETA has caused consternation in the Green Party, in 2017 Eamon Ryan called CETA a “bad deal”. Now the minister has changed his mind and is urging his members to vote in favour of the deal.
Green party members have been voicing their opinions for a week now and senior members admitted that It is “difficult issue” for the party. Both Neasa Hourigan and Paterick Costello threatened to vote against the Government in the first vote on the deal last December. The Green Party has lost one councillor Patrick Kavenagh who resigned in opposition to the issue and Una Power Green Party Cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown council is rumoured to be considering her position.
Opposition to CETA has also emerged on social media, several accounts have matrialised in the past few weeks. A group of volunteers have organised to encourage people to contact their TDs to ask them to vote against this deal. There is also a suggestion that it should be sent to an oireachtas committee for further discussion.This is gaining traction and momentum that may come to a head in the coming days.
The deal has also faced opposition at council level 5 councils Clare, Cavan, Monaghan, Leitrim and South Dublin have voted for the issue to be sent to an Oireachtas committee.
The country must now evaluate the question of what the balance of power between domestic governments and multinational corporations should be, but one thing is certain the government will have a battle on its hands to ratify this agreement.