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Seán Kelly on CETA: 'Scaremongering with inaccuracies and half-truths is irresponsible'

Anti-CETA campaigners advocate an anti-trade position without presenting the facts, writes Seán Kelly MEP.

Seán Kelly MEP

THE EU-CANADA TRADE agreement or CETA came into force on Thursday. It will bring undeniable economic benefits for Europe and Ireland: a predicted annual €12 billion GDP boost for the EU, with an estimated €1.2 billion boost in exports for Ireland.

Ireland has an export-orientated economy. 80% of everything we produce is exported and tens of thousands of Irish jobs depend on trade and agreements. Ireland is also Canada’s fifth largest investment recipient.

Additionally, CETA will be a tool for better investment opportunities and increased competitiveness, development of the knowledge-based economy and innovation.

CETA’s geostrategic impact

CETA is also hugely important for its geostrategic impact at this very point in time. Over one-fifth of our exports go to the US. Yet we now face legitimate concerns that President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies will affect Irish businesses, exports and foreign direct investment.

The negative implications of Brexit on Ireland are well documented, but it is worth restating that we cannot ignore the severity of the impact Brexit will have on this country. The UK is also aware that leaving the EU means cutting off highly valuable trade links. In the last few days, Prime Minister May indicated that the UK basically intends to copy and paste CETA in a bid to establish a post-Brexit trade deal with Canada.

Elsewhere, new world powers such as the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China, continue to rise while turbulence persists in the Middle East, Turkey and elsewhere.

The EU needs to take such factors into account, and secure reliable trading relationships in order to preserve our economic competitiveness and our status as the world’s largest economy.

Scaremongering with inaccuracies

I am not an absolutist. Although free trade brings peace and prosperity, I do not deny that effects of rapid technological development have taken its toll on manufacturing jobs, which people then link to globalisation.

Anti-CETA campaigners advocate an anti-trade position without presenting the facts or perhaps offering so-called “alternative facts”. Scaremongering with inaccuracies and half-truths is irresponsible in the least, and worryingly commonplace in this era of fake news.

If we exclude ourselves from global trading opportunities, are we “standing up for Ireland’s rights or sovereignty” as claimed by some opposed to CETA. I would not be so sure. We should strive to reach a middle ground, to shape globalisation, rather than be shaped by it.

CETA will allow us to grow even more

Ireland has seen how much trade can help to secure and create jobs, and CETA will allow us to grow even more. Every €1 billion in exports supports 14,000 European jobs. It is a fact that the EU-South Korea trade deal resulted in 210,000 new jobs in Europe.

Perhaps certain sectors may not benefit as significantly as others, but this does not mean that any sector will be sacrificed for another.

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) will benefit most. Removing the barriers to trade and providing clear rules for SMEs will create a more competitive trade and export environment. 99.7% of Irish businesses are SMEs and they need our support to continue to drive growth, innovation and job creation.

The basis of the CETA is threefold: improving market access and eliminating trade barriers, ensuring cooperation between the EU and Canadian regulators, and establishing international trade rules.

After 7 years of negotiations, with the full inclusion of various stakeholders including trade unions, NGOs, government officials and more, a very advanced, extensive trade agreement was achieved with CETA.

The worst kept secret in the world

On the question of transparency, the European Commission negotiates trade agreements on behalf of the EU, providing regular public updates. The European Parliament and member states have their say along the way as well as final ratification or rejection powers.

Therefore, the process of negotiating involves all of the EU institutions, governmental and non-governmental actors and is fully democratic. After seven years of negotiations and consultations with stakeholders, some still try to mislead the public and refer to CETA as a “secret deal” – if that is the case, it must be the worst kept secret in the world.

Secondly, the EU has very strict laws on hormone-fed beef and GMOs and this will not change under CETA. While trade arrangements can be a cause of concern for sensitive sectors like agriculture, they offer huge opportunities too. Exports are essential for the Irish agricultural sector. Previously, EU food and agricultural exports faced between 10 and 20% tariffs with Canada.

CETA will eliminate almost 92% of tariffs. However, certain sensitive sectors, such as beef and pork, will remain under limited quotas as agreed. Furthermore, CETA will not open up the market for poultry and eggs in the EU or Canada.

Thirdly, the EU is currently working on establishing a multilateral investment court, which would replace all the bilateral Investment Court Systems (ICSs) and the existing ISDS provisions in older agreements.

Strengthening European and Canadian ties

CETA specifically foresees the establishment of such a court. It will ensure cases are treated in a transparent manner by publicly appointed, independent professional judges in public hearings.

Consistency of judicial decisions will be ensured and jurisdictions respected. The sovereign right of governments to legislate in the public interest will be safeguarded.

CETA will be fully implemented once the parliaments in all member states ratify the deal according to their respective requirements. It will bring prosperity, strengthen European and Canadian economic ties and reinforce Europe’s position in a changing and increasingly globalised world.

Seán Kelly MEP is a member of the European Parliament, representing the Ireland South constituency. He is the Leader of Fine Gael Delegation in the European Parliament and the only Irish member of the Parliament’s Committee on International Trade.

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Seán Kelly  / MEP

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