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Green Party Dáil split vote on CETA avoided (for now at least)

The controversial EU-Canada trade deal is to be examined by the EU Affairs Committee.

Updated Feb 10th 2021, 6:55 PM

CETA, THE CONTROVERSIAL EU-Canada trade deal, is to be referred to an Oireachtas committee, delaying a Dáil vote that would likely split Green Party TDs.

A vote to ratify the deal was planned for December 2020 and was delayed until the new year but this latest move will see the vote put back once more.

Prior to that delayed vote, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan had affirmed his support for a ratification of the deal.  

In a letter to  party members today, Ryan said that there is “an expectation that CETA should be ratified” as part of the Programme for Government (PfG). 

“There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to support trade deals, and there is an expectation that CETA should be ratified,” the letter said.

CETA is not explicitly referenced in the PfG but it says that the government will “support new and existing EU trade deals”.

Ryan’s letter says that there has been “a lot of discussion within the party” about the issue of CETA. 

“As a party, we are all acutely aware that politics involves give and take. Our ambition to transform our country is as strong as ever, and we are determined to realise the commitments we secured in the Programme for Government,” he said.

This will entail considerable effort and focus by us all. The Programme for Government included some clear wins for our party: a commitment to 7% annual emission reductions, transforming our transport system, and ending Direct Provision.

Green Party TDs Neasa Hourigan and Patrick Costello are among those who have said they won’t back the full ratification of the CETA trade deal.

Hourigan previously told TheJournal.ie the current environment in the party is “unpleasant” as a result of disagreement over CETA.  

Social justice-focused Green Party sub-group the Just Transition Greens have also been vocally opposed to CETA. 

Most of the provisions in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which will remove the vast majority of trade barriers between Canada and the European Union, are already in operation.

One of the concerns raised by various parties about the CETA deal is the establishment of a new Investment Court System that could see private companies sue member states over regulatory decisions that negatively impact their profits.

Writing in TheJournal.ie today, Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore cited the example of tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris sued the Australian Government

Concerns have been raised about the impact this could have on implementing legislation in areas such as climate change, health and housing.

Today’s move will see CETA referred to the Oireachtas European Affairs Committee where it can be examined by TDs and Senators. 

Reacting to the move today, Deputy Hourigan said this was “a necessary step in the process but not an end in itself” and “the pressure placed on the government by various environmental groups”. 

“An Oireachtas Committee should provide a forum for the detailed examination of some of the issues we have with the CETA treaty, particularly the Investment Court System.  I look forward to seeing the detail of the committee instruction,” she said. 

Deputy Costello, who sits on the Oireachtas Justice Committee, said there are “huge constitutional questions” over the Investment Court System and that he will also be raising this with the chairperson of that committee. 

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Culture Minister and Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin said that she welcomes the scrutiny of CETA “at Oireachtas Committee level”.

“I have heard concerns of Green party members, NGOs and others. Listening to diverse views on such an important trade agreement, before any Dáil vote, is a positive step,” she said.

Sinn Fein’s Mairéad Farrell TD said that, while it was “welcome” that that CETA is to receive additional scrutiny, the remit of what the European Affairs Committee  to examine it must be “detailed, considered and worthwhile”.

“I am asking the government to clarify the following fundamental questions – what will be the Committee’s remit in this matter, will other committees be involved given the wide-ranging nature of this treaty, will the European Affairs Committee have the power to recommend CETA’s rejection, what experts will be called to testify, will civil society groups/NGOs be allowed to testify, and lastly will it examine the budgetary risks it poses?”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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