Belgium challenge to CETA

The recent announcement that Belgium is to challenge CETA in the European Court of Justice exposes yet again Ireland’s craven capitulation to the wishes of multinational corporations (MNCs), to whom successive Irish governments appear to be completely in thrall.

To recap: CETA is a proposed agreement between the EU and Canada which is nominally about trade (there are very few actual tariffs remaining) but is in fact about dismantling what the various multinationals who have been lobbying for this see as barriers to free trade, but which in fact are protections for our labour rights, for our food quality, for our environment protection, all of which have been hard won over many decades of struggle.

Though our Seanad, through a motion brought forward in October last year by Senator Alice Mary Higgins, voted to reject the ‘provisional application’ of CETA, our government decided to go ahead with it, almost the first government in the EU to do so. They didn’t even question CETA, no debate worthy of the name, enthusiastic as ever about supporting the interests of these MNCs - the ones set to benefit the most - even at the expense of those whom they are ELECTED to represent, their own citizens.

Belgium’s challenge is on the ICS/ISDS clause, a new and one-way layer of justice whereby these multinational corporations can sue governments local, regional and national for vast sums (projected profits foregone are factored in), yet those same corporations can’t be sued in those same new courts by anyone.

That in itself is a major concern, but it’s not the only challenge from Europe. France set up its own special committee to look into CETA, and last week they came up with their findings. They were not very positive. To quote Euractiv.com: ‘Its members denounced the trade agreement’s lack of ambition on environmental aspects. “CETA doesn’t give priority to health or environmental concerns,” they noted. They also lamented the absence of binding environmental commitments.’

Their concern didn’t stop there. Because the MNC-supporting EPP (with all four Fine Gael MEPs voting in favour) railroaded CETA through the European Parliament, the vast bulk of its elements can now be ‘provisionally’ implemented, and will be from September 21st onwards. “90% of the agreement will be applied regardless of what this evaluation committee says and very soon 50,000 tons of beef will arrive on the European market, fed and bred in a way that is detrimental to our health, environment, traceability and animal welfare standards,” Socialist MEPs complained in a joint statement on 6 September.

Right across the EU such concerns are being voiced by politicians even WITHIN the various governing parties. And yet in Ireland, Fine Gael (with the full support of Fianna Fáil) are its uncritical cheerleaders, ignoring the threats not just to our agriculture industry - which will not now be competing on a level playing field - but to the health and welfare of the people.

It’s time we got up off our knees and saw this EU project for what it has become, a vehicle for the greed and avarice of the ever more powerful elite.

CETAPaul Cotter