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'You can't stand with your finger in the dam': Bruton gives his 2c on TTIP

This is what the Jobs Minister had to say about a EU-US free-trade deal today.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

CONSUMERS WOULD ENJOY lower prices while workers would see their pay packets increase with a free-trade deal with the US, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton has claimed.

But thousands in at-risk industries like the beef sector could also find their jobs “displaced” under the controversial deal, which has hit a series of roadblocks in the EU.

Bruton today told an Oireachtas joint committee that lower tariffs under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – better known as the TTIP - would mean better returns for Irish exporters and cheaper prices for consumers.

“We probably have the highest exposure to the US of any European economy,” he said.

The potential for Ireland of a trade agreement that brings down tariffs, that brings down non-tariff barriers … is very significant. There is no doubt about that.”

TTIP1

A European Parliament debate on the TTIP treaty was postponed earlier this month amid angry scenes after over 200 amendments were put forward on the plans.

Issues have ranged from protecting workers’ rights to blocking Europe from genetically-modified produce, although much of the criticism has centred on the controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS).

The inclusion effectively gives foreign investors, like multinational firms, the right to sue governments for law changes that hurt their businesses.

However Bruton said the ISDS would preserve the “absolute right of government to regulate” and similar rules had already been written into the EU’s free-trade deal with Canada without major outcry.

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Displaced jobs

A report on TTIP commissioned for the government predicted the deal would add €2 billion, or 1.1% of Ireland’s GDP, to the economy each year. It also predicted between 5,000 and 10,000 extra export jobs and a 1.5% rise in real wages.

However an estimated 0.7% of all EU jobs would also suffer “displacement” under the treaty as industries were rendered unsustainable. If the same percentage played out in Ireland, it would mean about 13,500 jobs were made obsolete.

Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín said TTIP was a “very invasive treaty” and there were no provisions being made for the workers whose jobs could be in danger under the changes.

It is seen by many that the costs seem to fall on those who are consumers and workers in society, but the benefits seem to go to the larger companies,” he said.

Bruton said Ireland had gone through a similar process with previous UK-Irish and EU free-trade agreements and most industries were going through a constant state of change.

You can’t stand with your finger in the dam and stop change in those sectors,” he said.

The sectors predicted to benefit most from the free-trade deal would be industries like medical devices, pharmaceuticals and dairy.

Ireland’s huge beef industry, second only behind dairy when it comes to agricultural exports, was one of those predicted to face the biggest threat under the TTIP agreement if the EU was flooded with cheap US product.

READ: Left-wing campaigners are derailing a US free-trade deal for ‘political reasons’: Hayes >

READ: Fine Gael MEPs have been compared to fascists >

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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