A coalition of Irish farmers, environmentalists, trade unionists, global justice groups and small business organisations have called on MEPs to oppose the EU Canada trade deal known as CETA. 
The groups co-signed a letter to members of a European Parliament committee  calling for rejection of the deal earlier this week.
The trade deal is making its way through the European Parliament. Today a European Parliament committee voted in favour of the deal. The final vote on CETA will be taken by the whole Parliament on February 14th.
The trade deal, called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement or CETA, will compromise laws which protect health, food standards, the environment, worker’s rights, and the rule of law in the EU as we know it.
The most controversial element is that the agreement will allow foreign companies to sue countries that introduce laws & policies which impact on their profits. This will put countries like Ireland under pressure not to bring in laws which limit businesses in any way, laws that may be designed to limit tobacco use or pollution levels, for example.
Signatories to the letter came from a number of different sectors and included the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Environmental Pillar, the International Small Business Alliance, Comhlámh and Social Justice Ireland.
Meaghan Carmody, Activism and Education Manager for Friends of the Earth, Ireland explained:
“Today’s decision of the committee in favour of the CETA is shocking. The Trade Committee are also expected to endorse the deal. We are appealing to the media to engage on this issue, in the lead up to the final vote on February 13th“
David Joyce, Equality and Global Solidarity Officer in ICTU, said:
“The EU Parliamentary Committee on Employment & Social Affairs has already voted to reject the CETA given concerns on employment in the EU.. But today’s vote by the Environment Committee is deeply disappointing.”
Mark Cumming Head of Comhlámh, the association of international development workers and volunteers, said:
“We are calling on people to use the online CETA Check tool to call on MEPs to reject the deal. Many Irish MEPs have not committed to vote against the deal yet. We are also calling for engagement on an EU-wide day of action against CETA planned for January 21st“
Talking about the concerns for Farmers, Patrick Kent, President of the ICSA commented:
“The Committee’s vote today is deeply disappointing given their remit for public health , food safety and the Environment. 5% of Canadian farmers produce nearly half of Canada’s food produce. So that’s the scale of operators our small, and more quality oriented farmers will be competing with – with Canada’s different and lower standards on the use of antibiotics, steroids and hormones in animals destined for the food chain.”
Attracta Uí Bhroin Facilitator of Environmental Law Implementation Group (ELIG) said:
“The most controversial element of CETA is it will allow companies to sue countries that introduce policies or laws which impact on their profits, in a special system outside the courts. This will put countries like Ireland under pressure not to bring public interest laws which limit businesses in any way. We’ve yet to see the Government’s sums which justify how this deal is in the interest of Irish citizens who will have to foot the bill of these claims in the future.If the EU Parliament approves this deal in February, this will clear the way for many elements of the deal to come into effect even before Dáil Eireann gets to vote on it.”
Prof John Sweeney, from the Board of An Taisce commented:
“A key concern is how the fear of being sued under CETA and how other elements of the deal will compromise essential action on climate change by Governments and the EU. Today’s vote in favour of the CETA is a nail in the coffin of effective climate action.”
Meaghan Carmody for Friends of the Earth Ireland concluded:
“We’ve already seen evidence of the reduction in the EU Commission’s proposals to Endocrine-Disrupting chemicals to appease Canadian and US concerns. This negative effect on public interest policies will be enabled by the CETA agreement”
Note to the editor
Today, Thursday 12th Jan the ENVI Committee of MEPS with responsibility for Environment, Public Health and Food safety voted on a draft opinion prepared by rapporteur Bart Staes about the CETA, which recommended rejection of the CETA. CETA is the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement negotiated by the EU and Canada. The Committee first voted this morning on a series of ammendments to radically alter the opinion so that it became in favour of the deal and then voted to recommend acceptance of the deal.
Irish MEPs Nessa Childers, Lynn Boylan and Brian Crowley are full members of the ENVI Committee entitled to vote in ENVI today, Luke Ming-Flanagan and Mairead McGuinness are substitutes on the Committee without voting rights. The full list of Members of ENVI can be found here.
Following on from the ENVI vote, the EU Parliament’s INTA Committee with responsibility for Trade is expected to vote on an opinion in favour of the deal.
At the end of 2016, the EMPL committee with responsibility for Employment and Social Affairs supported an opinion rejecting the CETA which outlined serious concerns about the impact of the CETA agreement on employment in the EU.
The EU Parliament is expected to vote on the CETA agreement in a full plenary on February 14th.
All MEPS will be entitled to vote in the plenary vote of the European Parliament on the agreement in February.
The vote of the EU Parliament in February will effectively clear the way for the implementation of many problematic elements of the agreement even before it comes before National Parliaments. This advance implementation is a process known as “Provisional Application”.
The signatories to the letter to the ENVI MEPS are concerned about the negative implications of many of the elements of the agreement which would come in under Provisional Application, even though it has been agreed to not include in the Provisional Application the most controversial element – the Investment Court System, ICS which is the extra-judicial Investment Arbitration system which allows Big Business sue Sovereign Governments for introducing policy and regulation which impacts on their profitability.
Given Ireland’s high level of Foreign Direct Investment – the exposure to such claims is considered to be very significant. While many other EU Member States Ireland have already been subject to similar Investment Arbitration Systems known as Investment Settlement Dispute System, ISDS through various Bi-lateral Investment Treaties, Ireland is quite unique in currently having very limited exposure to them. The Investment arbitration proposals in the CETA will transform this increasing the level of exposure right across the EU.
The CETA check tool enables citizens to simply request their MEP to vote against the CETA.
”CETA” – The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement here  The European Parliamentary Committee is ENVI with responsibility for environment, public health and food safety.