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Green Party Cabinet ministers write to members in a bid to allay fears about the EU-Canada trade deal

Party membership has been told that ratifying the controversial EU-Canada trade deal is “politically important” with Brexit looming.
Dec 16th 2020, 3:15 PM 11,365 31

GREEN PARTY CABINET ministers have written to the party membership to allay fears about the EU-Canada trade deal, known as CETA .

Correspondence seen by TheJournal.ie notes the media coverage this week on the trade deal, and states that “although some concerns remain, the investment dispute mechanism has been improved.”

The membership is told that ratifying the controversial EU-Canada trade deal is “politically important” with Brexit looming.

A vote on the deal was due to take place in the Dáil this week but was postponed until next month after a number of TDs raised concerns about it.

A split in the Green Party has emerged over the deal with Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan and her colleague Patrick Costello both saying they won’t back the full ratification of the trade deal.

Hourigan told TheJournal.ie the current environment in the party is “unpleasant”.

“A senior staff member told the parliamentary party that my position on CETA was delusional this week. So it is quite an aggressive and unpleasant work environment.”

Hourigan, the party’s finance spokesperson, said this kind of commentary is “not helpful” and “not respectful”.

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.

Once ratified, CETA will, among other things, allow corporations to sue the Irish State through a new ‘Investor Court System’ over regulatory decisions that negatively impact their profits.

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

Hourigan said there is “absolutely no time pressure” for Ireland to ratify the deal and we should wait to see the outcomes of debates in other European countries.

The letter to the party members, signed by Eamon Ryan, Roderic O’Gorman, Senator Pippa Hackett, along with deputy party leader Catherine Martin, states that in late November, the Government agreed to bring a motion before the Dáil to ratify the final elements of the trade deal with Canada.

“Ratification of the deal is a sensitive issue for the Green Party because in the past we have campaigned against CETA, and in particular against the investment dispute mechanism. Our decision to proceed in this way is motivated by a number of factors,” it states.

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“We have been reassured about the climate impact of the deal. In 2018, a commitment was made by the EU and Canada under the CETA framework to implement the Paris agreement,” it adds.

The letter also acknowledges Fine Gael’s standpoint on the matter, that the Programme for Government affirms support for Trade agreements – both existing and new.

“None of this takes away from the fact that this is a difficult issue. While it was raised with the parliamentary party on three occasions over the past six weeks, we decided to postpone the vote until January to allow for more considered debate.

“We remain committed to driving forward the reforms to the global economic system that are needed to protect the planet and its people,” concludes the letter.

Reacting to the letter, Hourigan linking the trade deal to Brexit is “perhaps the most strange aspect of the current debate”

“CETA cannot have anything to do with or impact on post Brexit recovery. This is a nonsense,” she said.

Hourigan added: “There are many, many months, more probably years before all countries ratify the ICS section of CETA. Trade between both territories continues to grow unaffected. To try and tie it to fear around Brexit implies a weakness to the central argument in favour of ratification of CETA.”

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Christina Finn

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