Fianna Fáil PMB and CETA

What were Fianna Fáil playing at with their Private Members Bill on allowing the government carte blanche on CETA and all other such major international trade agreements? Has anyone in Fianna Fáil been paying even the slightest bit of attention to the serious concerns and objections raised over those so-called trade deals (they are far, far more about opening all sorts of markets to the multinational corporations who have been the real driving force behind CETA, TTIP and all such deals, about lowering standards across the board, than they are about trade), not just by civil society groups, but by major political parties in countries such as Germany, Netherlands, France and even today, in Spain, with El Pais reporting that ‘The first drastic change of the PSOE of Sánchez (its new leader) will be reflected in the withdrawal of the Spanish socialists from the support to the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and Canada.’

For those of you who don’t know, and especially for those in the Fianna Fáil general membership who don’t know, CETA is a deal that was negotiated, finalised and agreed entirely behind closed doors between the European Commission and Canada. It came to light only because of the even bigger deal between the USA and the EU that was likewise being negotiated on our behalf by the European Commission behind closed doors, but by then CETA was already done and dusted.

Just before it was to be brought to the European Parliament for rubber-stamping a problem arose – the Socialists & Democrats were split, didn’t like certain elements of the proposed deal. Given that the S&D was a major and critical part of the big alliance that basically saw any legislation the EPP (think Fine Gael or any other multinational global corporation-loving party you choose) supported steamrolled through Parliament, this was a problem. In an unprecedented move the then European Parliament, Martin Schultz of the S&D, postponed the vote at the last minute.

The deal was tweaked, but barely tweaked. The controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement clause (ISDS) was reworked and given a new title and acronym, the Investment Court System (ICS), but remained fundamentally the same. It’s still a new layer of ‘justice’ that has precedence even over the European Court of Justice, the top court in Europe, and also over the Supreme Court in Canada. It’s still a one-way system – governments can’t sue investors but investors can sue governments (national and regional) for what they claim are loss of potential profits. Read that again – it’s not loss of investment, it’s loss of potential profits, which in the multiplicity of cases already lost by governments through those courts, can amount even into billions. It is the kind of system that is meant to put the frighteners on any country like Ireland when considering implementing a ban on fracking, for example, as was recently done in the Dáil.

That’s just one area of concern, but there are more, far more. Of major concern is the potential impact of CETA, TTIP and Mercosur (with South America) to our agriculture industry, but there is also the potential impact to our SMEs, who may now find themselves in direct competition with major multinational franchises.

The argument can be put forward that this is all good news for ‘the consumer’ and yes, it may lead to lower prices. Ultimately, however, all of us ‘consumers’ are also producers in one way or another, either directly (as in farmers and so on) or indirectly, as workers in industry. Inevitably and inexorably then, as end prices are driven down, so are the costs associated with production, including labour costs and environmental-protection costs.

That Fianna Fáil would now choose to bring forward a Bill such as this is absolutely baffling. Given that the government itself has already agreed to the provisional ratification of CETA, what was the need for this Bill? None, as far as I can see. Unless of course Fianna Fáil has something else up its self-serving sleeve.

CETAPaul Cotter