I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to address the issue of the CETA deal, a very important trade deal between the European Union and Canada, the importance of trade between Ireland and Canada, and to debunk some of the misinformation that has been spread about this deal.
People sometimes have the idea that trade deals are something particularly negative. All the international evidence, including from the OECD, shows that trade deals result in more employment, higher average pay, raised incomes, improved working conditions and reduced prices to consumers. There are individuals who lose out, but it is better to upskill, reskill and help modernise industries rather than retain protectionist policies. The OECD has stated that up to half of employment in Ireland is dependent on trade-driven exports.
My understanding is that trade between Ireland and Canada is now close to €4 billion annually. That has significantly increased since the CETA deal came into place. Canada, like the European Union, has some of the highest labour, employment, public health and environmental standards anywhere in the world. Canada, like the European Union, is also committed to fair trade. I have to ask, if we cannot do a trade deal with Canada, with whom can we do a deal?
I have far more concerns about the deal between the EU and China, where there are questions around its labour standards, but those opposed to CETA do not seem to want to criticise China. In fact, those opposed to CETA seem more convinced that we should be looking at the economic models in Cuba and Venezuela where labour standards are certainly far lower. Internationally, there are currently more than 2,300 bilateral investment treaties.
All of those agreements have international arbitration or dispute resolution mechanisms. If a dispute arises, there has to be a way for it to be resolved.
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement does not force governments on either side of the Atlantic to change any of our standards. Let us be very clear about this. It is about dispute resolution. If an Irish company is discriminated against by a Canadian provincial or national government, it can take action and, similarly, a Canadian company can do likewise on this side. The European Court of Justice has found that the investment court system of CETA is in line with EU treaties. The court mechanism will not be some sort of hidden system. It will involve public hearings. Documents will be made available, interested parties, including NGOs, will be able to make submissions, and areas like public health and the environment will remain national competencies which cannot be challenged.
I am looking forward to an era where we see blockchain smart contracts, which will make the need for dispute resolution mechanisms largely redundant. Until then, in all of our international trade agreements and treaties there has to be a dispute resolution mechanism. Canada, like the European Union, has very strong standards in all of these areas. We should be supportive of companies in Ireland that continue to trade with Canada and provide good jobs here and vice versa.
I ask the Minister of State to set out the benefits of Irish-Canadian trade and debunk some of the myths we are hearing about CETA. I ask him to make clear to people that the investor court system operates to provide balance and is not the result of some of the scaremongering we have been hearing about it.