Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement

Questions (8, 9)

Holly Cairns

Question:

8. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way in which the investor court system as contained in the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement would impact Government policy and decision-making on environmental regulations, especially on mining and prospecting for minerals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6900/21]

View answer

Holly Cairns

Question:

9. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department has carried out analysis on the potential of the investor court system, as contained in the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, to impact negatively Ireland's capacity to reach climate emissions targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7455/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 9 together.

As the Deputy will be aware the full coming into force of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) once ratified across all Member States, will see the implementation of the Investment Chapter of the Agreement including the resolution of disputes between investors and states, should they arise.

All international trade agreements have dispute resolution arrangements. Where such agreements cover (i) trade in both goods and services and (ii) investment rules and protections, then there must be a dispute resolution mechanism that covers investments. The EU’s new approach to investment protection is the Investment Court System (ICS) which is contained in CETA and replaces the old Investor-State Dispute Settlement or ISDS mechanism.

ISDS, which has been in existence since the 1950s, enables overseas investors to resolve disputes with the government of the country where their investment is made through binding international arbitration. ISDS has, however, proved controversial in recent times and is now regarded as outdated by the European Commission. In this regard, the Irish Government considered the European Commission was right to seek to address the concerns raised by NGOs and others regarding ISDS in seeking to develop a new replacement mechanism – the Investment Court System (ICS) – to address concerns on transparency, legitimacy and public interest.

ICS addressees the concerns around the old ISDS system through:

- Greater transparency – hearings will be open and comments available on-line, and a right to intervene for parties with an interest in the dispute will be provided;

- Safeguards to prevent forum-shopping;

- Provisions for the swift dismissal of frivolous claims should they arise;

- The maintenance of a clear distinction between international law and domestic law;

- The avoidance of multiple and parallel proceedings in the ICS and national courts, and;

- The establishment of a permanent list of arbitrators.

The reforms to investment protection mean the ICS will involve:

- a public Investment Court System composed of a first instance Tribunal and an Appeal Tribunal;

- the establishment of a permanent list of arbitrators with qualifications comparable to those required for the members of permanent international courts, from which members will be selected to hear individual cases; and

- precise limitations on the ability of investors to take a case before the Tribunal.

CETA introduces a precise and specific standard of "fair and equitable treatment" of investors and investment. Therefore, an investor may only have recourse to the Investment Court System (ICS) in very specific limited grounds such as in the case of the denial of justice, or a fundamental breach of due process, or through targeted discrimination for example on the grounds of race, religious belief or gender. None of these measures give the Government any concern that Ireland would be subject to ICS proceedings. Moreover, it is important to note that under the ICS a State can never be forced to change its legislation, only to pay fair compensation in cases where the investor is deemed to have been treated unfairly under the specific grounds detailed. An investor cannot be given compensation just because they have lost profits or suffered economic loss or costs.

As one of the first “new generation” EU Free Trade Agreements, CETA contains a dedicated chapter on Trade and the Environment. The Agreement has some of the strongest commitments ever included in a trade deal to promote labour rights, environmental protection and sustainable development. CETA integrates the EU's and Canada's commitments to apply international rules on workers' rights, environmental protection and climate action. These obligations are binding, with the same legal value as any other provision.

CETA also reaffirms the EU and Canada’s right to regulate to achieve legitimate policy objectives, such as the protection of public health, the environment or consumer protection.

Under CETA, Canadian firms are placed on an equal footing with their EU competitors, including in relation to access to mining and prospecting investment. This means that Canadian companies must comply with all EU and national legislation in the EU countries where they operate (in the same way as EU companies), and they must not be subject to discriminatory rules.

As part of the finalising of the Agreement, the EU and Canada also agreed a legally binding Joint Interpretative Instrument (JII) that was added to CETA to provide further assurances in relation to public services, labour rights, environmental protection and investment. CETA does not affect EU rules on food safety or the environment. Neither does it restrict the EU or Canada from passing new laws in areas of public interest such as the environment, and health and safety. Importantly, in CETA both sides also agree that more trade and investment should not be at the expense of environmental protection and labour rights. On the contrary, the EU and Canada are committed to ensuring that CETA helps ensure that economic growth, social development, and environmental protection go hand in hand.

CETA does not restrict either the EU or Canada from passing new laws in areas of public interest such as the environment, and health and safety. Nor does CETA affect the Government’s scope for developing new laws in response to the needs and priorities of Irish citizens. CETA includes commitments towards the sustainable management of forests, fisheries and aquaculture. It also includes commitments to cooperate on trade-related environmental issues of common interest such as climate change where the implementation of the Paris Agreement will be an important shared responsibility for the European Union and its Member States and Canada.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (10)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

10. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to difficulties faced by parents in accessing essential items for their children, especially young children, and specifically shoes, which they grow out of quickly and which need to be measured; and if he will examine same (details supplied). [6168/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Under Level 5 of the Plan for Living with COVID-19, only essential retail outlets will remain open. Further information can be found on https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2dc71-level-5/. The decision to move to full scale Level 5 was not taken lightly and all factors were considered. All measures in Level 5 will stay in place until at least March 5 2021.

S.I. No. 701 of 2020 Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No. 10) Regulations 2020 and S.I. No. 4 of 2021 Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No. 10) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/1f150-view-statutory-instruments-related-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/) clearly sets out the temporary restrictions under Level 5. A list of essential services can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c9158-essential-services/ and the list of essential retail outlets at Level 5 can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/60ecc-essential-retail-outlets-for-level-5/.

Level 5 does not restrict people from purchasing any product, it does however restrict people from physically going into non-essential stores. This is to stop people making unnecessary journeys, congregating and browsing for non-essential goods, to limit the spread of the virus.

Under the current temporary restrictions click and collect, from non-essential retail outlets is no longer permitted. Click or phone and deliver will continue.

Retailers can and have made arrangements, on compassionate grounds, for individual customers to urgently purchase a non-essential item in store. This is only in exceptional circumstances where it is not possible to plan ahead and avail of remote ordering services such as in emergencies, e.g. admission to hospital.

We are asking retailers to fully get behind the spirit of the regulations. In particular, we are asking retailers with mixed retail offering which have discrete spaces for essential and non-essential retail to make arrangements for the separation of relevant areas.

An Garda Síochána are engaging with retailers and enforcing the regulations where necessary.

We are asking retailers to operate staggered opening and closing hours, as well as facilitating starting and finishing hours, in order to minimise the impact on public transport and to continue to provide dedicated hours for vulnerable customers.

My colleague Minister English has met regularly with Retail Forum members and representatives from the retail, grocery and distribution sector to continuously assess adherence to the public health restrictions.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) ‘The Work Safely Protocol’ incorporates the current advice on the Public Health measures needed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community and workplaces. The Protocol is available on www.gov.ie The HSA is the lead agency in overseeing compliance with the Protocol in the workplace. If employers or employees need further guidance on the Protocol, the HSA Helpline can be contacted at 1890 289 389 or wcu@hsa.ie.

In addition, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) have also produced two guidance documents, one for the retail Sector and one for Shopping Centres. Both documents can be found on www.nsai.ie.

I would like to thank retailers and their customers for their efforts at this difficult time. By each of us following the spirit of these new rules and working together we can hopefully return to a lower level of the Living with COVID-19 framework.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (11)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

11. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the supports announced in Scotland (details supplied) for the wedding industry; and his views on the establishment of a bespoke scheme for the industry here. [6341/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I understand the enormous difficulties the wedding industry is facing as the pandemic rolls on. I fully appreciate that it is one of the industries worst affected and for the longest and know that as we enter a second year of restrictions many in the sector must be fearing for their future. I do hope that once the pandemic is over the wedding sector will have a number of good years with so many weddings postponed. In the meantime, the Government wants to make sure as many businesses as possible survive to see that day.

The financial support the Government is providing businesses and workers affected by the pandemic is unprecedented. Almost a million people of working age are now in receipt of weekly payments including the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), Employment Wage Subsidy (EWSS) and Jobseekers Benefit or Allowance. Support for business includes the weekly CRSS payment for businesses forced to close their doors to the public, reduced VAT rates, a commercial rates holiday, the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, the Tourism Business Continuity Scheme as well as low cost loans.

Budget 2021 provided a significant package of tax and expenditure measures to build the resilience of the economy and to help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. Details of the wide range of supports available are on my Department’s website at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

These measures are in addition to the €7 billion July Stimulus of enterprise measures, which includes the Wage Subsidy Scheme extended through 2021, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities, all of which will help to improve cashflow amongst self-employed. We are providing for an extension of the tax warehousing scheme to include repayments of Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme funds owed by employers and preliminary tax obligations for adversely affected businesses.

As announced in the July Stimulus, the Enterprise Support Grant was extended to assist eligible self-employed, including sole traders, who exit the PUP or jobseekers schemes, to re-start their business. Further information is available at www.gov.ie.

On the 9th of December, following engagement with the Arts sector and other self-employed sectors my colleague Minister Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Social Protection, announced the doubling of the PUP threshold from the current €480 over four weeks to €960 over an eight-week period effective immediately. This measure is to assist those who are trying to restart their businesses and will allow self-employed people to take on intermittent jobs without losing their entitlement to the PUP.

The Government also announced the provision of support of €50m for the live entertainment sector in Budget 2021. This will include measures for the commercial entertainment sector and will support live entertainment across the country. The 2021 supports for the live entertainment sector will be the subject of further consultation with stakeholders. It will also be informed by the pilot live performance scheme in 2020 which is being rolled out now.

The three main schemes, the CRSS, EWSS and PUP compare favourably with any other packages on offer in other countries. The new scheme, announced this week, the COVID Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) will provide funding of up to €8,000 for those businesses that are in receipt of a rates bill from their local authority. While the grant is modest, it will help smaller businesses in particular to cover these costs – rent, insurance, utilities, security.

The Government is very much open to proposals from the wedding sector as to how we can help further. However, Government schemes to support businesses are generally designed to help meet fixed costs that cannot be avoided and it is not possible to provide compensation for loss of personal income or profits.

My colleagues, Minister Catherine Martin T.D., Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht and Minister Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine may be able to provide more specific details on the events and hospitality industry and details on supports for the food sector respectively.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (12)

Neale Richmond

Question:

12. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures in place to help retail workers enforce the mandatory face covering rule and protect them from abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6369/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Under Level 5 of the Plan for Living with COVID-19, only essential retail outlets will remain open. Further information can be found on https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2dc71-level-5/. The decision to move to full scale Level 5 was not taken lightly and all factors were considered. All measures in Level 5 will stay in place until at least March 5 2021.

S.I. No. 701 of 2020 Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No. 10) Regulations 2020 and S.I. No. 4 of 2021 Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No. 10) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/1f150-view-statutory-instruments-related-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/) clearly sets out the temporary restrictions under Level 5. A list of essential services can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c9158-essential-services/ and the list of essential retail outlets at Level 5 can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/60ecc-essential-retail-outlets-for-level-5/.

The issue of customer non-compliance has been raised by retailers with my officials. I understand that this relates to a minority of customers as most continue to respect the regulations as well as retailers and fellow shoppers.

However, my Department’s Communications Unit continues to raise awareness around this issue and liaises with Garda Communications and other Government departments to further promote this messaging.

An Garda Síochána are engaging with retailers and enforcing the regulations where necessary.

My colleague Minister English has met regularly with Retail Forum members and representatives from the retail, grocery and distribution sector to continuously assess adherence to the public health restrictions.

Earlier this week, Minister English released a statement thanking shoppers for wearing face masks and respecting retail workers in essential stores. He reiterated that by law, face coverings must be worn while shopping. Keeping to these guidelines protects other shoppers and retail staff.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) ‘The Work Safely Protocol’ incorporates the current advice on the Public Health measures needed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community and workplaces. The Protocol is available on www.gov.ie The HSA is the lead agency in overseeing compliance with the Protocol in the workplace. If employers or employees need further guidance on the Protocol, the HSA Helpline can be contacted at 1890 289 389 or wcu@hsa.ie.

In addition, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) have also produced two guidance documents, one for the retail Sector and one for Shopping Centres. Both documents can be found on www.nsai.ie.

I would like to thank retailers for their efforts at this difficult time. By each of us following the spirit of these new rules and working together we can hopefully return to a lower level of the Living with COVID-19 framework.

Enterprise Ireland

Questions (13)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

13. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will provide a report on the activity of the Enterprise Ireland office in Toronto, Canada. [6608/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Through the Agency’s network of 40 international offices, client companies are assisted to increase exports by providing market intelligence and market entry support for their internationalisation strategies. Growing Irish exports into North America, including Canada, is a key strategic focus of Enterprise Ireland. Enterprise Ireland has two offices in Canada, Toronto and Montreal. In that regard, Enterprise Ireland’s office in Toronto opened in October 2006.

Canada, in particular, is an important destination for Irish exports, with €365 million of exports to Canada reported by Enterprise Ireland’s clients in 2019. This represented 7% growth year-on-year, marking Canada as top 10 export market for Irish companies. Key export sectors include Fintech and Services; Education; Digital Technologies; Engineering; Healthcare and Food.

The Toronto office supports Irish companies to expand into the Canadian market, particularly in the following areas.

- Digital Technologies

- Industrial Technologies

- Education services

- Healthcare and Lifesciences

The Toronto office is actively connecting with buyers in the marketplace and linking them to Irish companies in these sectors. These efforts assist in setting up in-market and scaling the Irish companies in the market. As part of this, Enterprise Ireland's Toronto office engages with the Irish diaspora, including by working closely with other Government Departments and Agencies as part of a Team Ireland approach. The Toronto office is also working with companies on their future growth strategies in the Canadian market through the provision of market and business intelligence to assist companies entering or scaling in the region.

During 2021, Enterprise Ireland’s Toronto office is focused on delivering a range of online, virtual events and client engagements to aid Irish companies’ access to Canadian market opportunities.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (14)

Michael McNamara

Question:

14. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will consider introducing a scheme similar to that devised by the Scottish Government to assist workers in the wedding industry (details supplied) whose incomes have been devastated by the lockdowns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6715/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I understand the enormous difficulties the wedding industry is facing as the pandemic rolls on. I fully appreciate that it is one of the industries worst affected and for the longest and know that as we enter a second year of restrictions many in the sector must be fearing for their future. I do hope that once the pandemic is over the wedding sector will have a number of good years with so many weddings postponed. In the meantime, the Government wants to make sure as many businesses as possible survive to see that day.

The financial support the Government is providing businesses and workers affected by the pandemic is unprecedented. Almost a million people of working age are now in receipt of weekly payments including the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), Employment Wage Subsidy (EWSS) and Jobseekers Benefit or Allowance. Support for business includes the weekly CRSS payment for businesses forced to close their doors to the public, reduced VAT rates, a commercial rates holiday, the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, the Tourism Business Continuity Scheme as well as low cost loans.

Budget 2021 provided a significant package of tax and expenditure measures to build the resilience of the economy and to help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. Details of the wide range of supports available are on my Department’s website at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

These measures are in addition to the €7 billion July Stimulus of enterprise measures, which includes the Wage Subsidy Scheme extended through 2021, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities, all of which will help to improve cashflow amongst self-employed. We are providing for an extension of the tax warehousing scheme to include repayments of Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme funds owed by employers and preliminary tax obligations for adversely affected businesses.

As announced in the July Stimulus, the Enterprise Support Grant was extended to assist eligible self-employed, including sole traders, who exit the PUP or jobseekers schemes, to re-start their business. Further information is available at www.gov.ie.

On the 9th of December, following engagement with the Arts sector and other self-employed sectors my colleague Minister Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Social Protection, announced the doubling of the PUP threshold from the current €480 over four weeks to €960 over an eight-week period effective immediately. This measure is to assist those who are trying to restart their businesses and will allow self-employed people to take on intermittent jobs without losing their entitlement to the PUP.

The Government also announced the provision of support of €50m for the live entertainment sector in Budget 2021. This will include measures for the commercial entertainment sector and will support live entertainment across the country. The 2021 supports for the live entertainment sector will be the subject of further consultation with stakeholders. It will also be informed by the pilot live performance scheme in 2020 which is being rolled out now.

The three main schemes, the CRSS, EWSS and PUP compare favourably with any other packages on offer in other countries. The new scheme, announced this week, the COVID Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) will provide funding of up to €8,000 for those businesses that are in receipt of a rates bill from their local authority. While the grant is modest, it will help smaller businesses in particular to cover these costs – rent, insurance, utilities, security.

The Government is very much open to proposals from the wedding sector as to how we can help further. However, Government schemes to support businesses are generally designed to help meet fixed costs that cannot be avoided and it is not possible to provide compensation for loss of personal income or profits.

My colleagues, Minister Catherine Martin T.D., Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht and Minister Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine may be able to provide more specific details on the events and hospitality industry and details on supports for the food sector respectively.

IDA Ireland

Questions (15)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

15. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will provide details of the vacant IDA Ireland sites by county; the IDA sites being used by county in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6719/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

IDA Ireland has properties and sites available for marketing nationwide. The Agency requires buildings and land to promote to its FDI clients coming to Ireland for the first time and for those seeking to expand their existing investments.

The availability of such infrastructure is a key element of IDA’s range of marketing tools that is required to win projects in the competitive world of mobile investment. It enables companies to expedite their investments both start up and existing and supports the regional strategy which is an important component of the Agency’s current strategy.

IDA marketable lands by Town and County are set out below:

Property Name

Property Town

Property County

Property Type

Carlow AOB Site

Carlow

County Carlow

Strategic Site

Cavan B&T Park

Cavan

County Cavan

Business Park

Springfield Estate

Youghal

County Cork

Industrial Estate

Foxhole

Youghal

Industrial Estate

Poundlick Estate

Skibbereen

Industrial Estate

Mallow B&T Park

Mallow

Business Park

Pulleen

Kanturk

Industrial Estate

Rathealy

Fermoy

Industrial Estate

Kilbarry B&T Park

Cork City

Business Park

Carrigtohill B&T Park

Carrigtohill

Business Park

Rathgoggan Estate

Charleville

Industrial Estate

Drombrow

Bantry

Industrial Estate

Laragh Estate

Bandon

Industrial Estate

Ringaskiddy

Cork City

Strategic Site

Cork B&T Park

Cork City

Industrial Estate

Ringaskiddy Estate

Cork City

Industrial Estate

Rossa Ave

Cork City

Industrial Estate

Fermoy B&T Park

Fermoy

Business Park

Cork Carrigtohill East

Carrigtohill East

Strategic Site

Lurganboy

Donegal/Tully/Clar/B

County Donegal

Industrial Estate

Knocknamona

Letterkenny

Industrial Estate

Letterkenny B&T Park

Letterkenny/Manorcun

Business Park

Letterkenny Lisnenan 2

Letterkenny/Manorcun

Industrial Estate

Whitestown Ind Est

Dublin 24

County Dublin

Industrial Estate

Poppintree Ind Est

Dublin 11

"

Industrial Estate

Blanchardstown B&T Park

Blanchardstown

Business Park

Swords Business Park Greenfields

Swords

Industrial Estate

Belcamp B&T Park

Dublin 5

Business Park

Tuam Business Park

Tuam

County Galway

Industrial Estate

Roundstone

Roundstone

Industrial Estate

Mountbellew Business Park

Mountbellew/Ballygar

Industrial Estate

Gort Business Park

Gort

Industrial Estate

Glenamaddy Business Park

Glenamaddy

Industrial Estate

Parkmore B&T Park (W&E)

Galway City

Business Park

Ballygar Site

Ballygar

Industrial Estate

Ballinasloe B&T Park

Ballinasloe

Business Park

Tuam Science & Technology Park

Tuam

Business Park

Oranmore Science & Tech Park

Galway City

Strategic Site

Athenry Strategic Site

Athenry

Strategic Site

Farrantoreen

Killorglin

County Kerry

Industrial Estate

Dingle

Dingle

Industrial Estate

Killarney B&T Park

Killarney

Industrial Estate

Newbridge Business Park

Newbridge

County Kildare

Business Park

Newbridge BP (new)

Newbridge

Strategic Site

Purcellsinch Ind. Park

Kilkenny

County Kilkenny

Industrial Estate

Kilkenny B&T Park

Kilkenny

Business Park

Belview Strategic Site

Belview

Strategic Site

Portlaoise B&T Park

Portlaoise

County Laois

Business Park

Carrick-On-Shannon B&T Park

Carrick-On-Shannon

County Leitrim

Business Park

Carrick-On-Shannon

Carrick-On-Shannon

Industrial Estate

Drumshanbo

Drumshanbo

Industrial Estate

Carrickleitrim

Manorhamilton

"

Industrial Estate

Mohill

Mohill

Industrial Estate

The National Technology Park

Limerick

County Limerick

Business Park

Raheen Business Park

Limerick

Business Park

Aghafad

Longford

County Longford

Industrial Estate

Greenore

Greenore

County Louth

Industrial Estate

Dundalk B&T Park

Dundalk

Business Park

Dundalk Mullagharlin East

Dundalk/Ravensdale

Strategic Site

Bangor Erris Industrial Park

Bangor Erris

County Mayo

Industrial Estate

Castlebar B&T Park

Castlebar

Business Park

Foxford Business Park

Foxford

Industrial Estate

Ballina

Ballina

Industrial Estate

Navan B&T Park

Navan

County Meath

Business Park

Drogheda B&T Park (new)

Drogheda

Business Park

Monaghan Business Park

Monaghan

County Monaghan

Business Park

Tullamore Industrial Estate

Tullamore

County Offaly

Industrial Estate

Tullamore B&T Park

Tullamore

Business Park

Clara

Clara

Industrial Estate

Roscommon B&T Park

Roscommon

County Roscommon

Business Park

Station Rd

Castlerea

Industrial Estate

Easkey Business Park

Easkey

County Sligo

Industrial Estate

Sligo B&T Park

Sligo

Business Park

Sligo - Strategic Site

Sligo

Industrial Estate

Knockanrawley

Tipperary

County Tipperary

Industrial Estate

Clonmel Business Park

Clonmel

Industrial Estate

Waterford Industrial Estate

Waterford

County Waterford

Industrial Estate

Waterford B&T Park

Waterford

Business Park

Dungarvan B&T Park

Dungarvan

Business Park

Clonmore Ind. Est.

Mullingar

County Westmeath

Industrial Estate

Athlone B&T Park Garrycastle

Athlone

Business Park

Garrankesh Estate

Athlone

Industrial Estate

Mullingar B&T Park

Mullingar

Business Park

Ballymahon Road

Athlone

Business Park

Wexford B&T Park

Wexford

County Wexford

Business Park

Wexford Whitemills

Wexford

Industrial Estate

Moyne Upper

Enniscorthy

Industrial Estate

Greystones B&T Park

Greystones

County Wicklow

Industrial Estate

Arklow B&T Park

Arklow

Business Park

Key: B & T Business and Technology Park

Health and Safety Authority

Questions (16)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

16. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 19 of 27 January 2021, the exact number of unannounced Health and Safety Authority inspections. [6744/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I am advised by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) that they do not keep a record for every sector differentiating between announced and unannounced inspections and therefore it is not possible to provide the Deputy with an exact figure for the number of unannounced inspections that took place in 2020.

However, I am assured by the HSA that the vast majority of their inspections remain unannounced and that the number of announced inspections carried out in any given year is small in number - the number provided by the Health and Safety Authority is an estimate. The amount of unannounced inspections is around 95% of the overall total number of inspections in any given year. An approximate estimation of unannounced inspections for 2020 would be over eight thousand, six hundred given the total of 9,135 inspections in 2020.

Some of the exceptional circumstances where prior notification may be appropriate and necessary include security, availability of essential personnel and operational reasons.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (17)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

17. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will review correspondence (details supplied); if he can provide advice on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6746/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Fashion retail is non-essential and is closed to the public. Retailers can provide online sales, but must use only minimum staff on site for fulfilment and ordering and administrative work should be done from home. Where fulfilment of online orders is not being done from individual stores but from warehouses, then staff should not be travelling to stores other than for essential work such as security etc.

From the outset of Covid-19, many employers have taken the initiative, in line with subsequent requests from the Government, to be as flexible as possible in allowing staff time off to look after their children who are not attending school or crèche. Employers have a general duty of care towards their workers and that care is often expressed in the form of negotiation, compromise and flexibility. Some of the options to be considered for workers with caring responsibilities that preclude them from working their normal hours in the normal, pre-Covid may include -

- Offering paid compassionate leave,

- Allowing employees to work from home,

- Altering shifts, so that employees can coordinate caring between themselves and partners, or another person,

- Allowing employees to rearrange holidays,

- Allowing employees to rearrange parental leave,

- Allowing employees to take paid time off that can be worked back at a later time etc.

- Allowing employees to take unpaid leave until they can return to work full or part-time.

I would encourage any employees affected by the lack of childcare to engage with their employer in the first instance to explore all options available to enable them to continue working. I would encourage employers to be as flexible and supportive as possible with a view to maintaining good employment relationships over the long term.

In circumstances where employers fail to consider any reasonable accommodations, employees may have recourse to pursue a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) under the relevant legislation such as Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2015, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 or the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2015.

Responsibility for the Employment Equality Acts rests with my colleague, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

Brexit Supports

Questions (18)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

18. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of businesses in counties Cavan and Monaghan that have availed of the Brexit loan scheme. [6760/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The Brexit Loan Scheme makes working capital lending available to eligible businesses exposed to impacts arising from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU as they seek to innovate, change or adapt in response to these impacts.

Loans under the scheme range from €25,000 to €1.5m for terms of up to three years and are offered at favourable terms compared to otherwise similar lending in the market. For example, there is no security required on loans of up to €500,000 and loans under the scheme are offered at a maximum interest rate of 4%.

The Brexit Loan Scheme features a two-stage application process, whereby businesses must first apply to the SBCI to confirm their eligibility under the scheme. Successful applicants are issued an eligibility reference number, which they can then use to make a loan application to a participating finance provider.

Granular details of the scheme’s uptake, including the breakdown of activity per county, are reported on a quarterly basis, and the following data is that as of the most recent quarterly report, dated 30 September 2020:

- As of the most recent report, there had been 23 eligibility codes approved under the Brexit Loan Scheme to businesses in county Cavan. Of those, 5 had progressed to draw loans under the scheme to a total value of €650,000.

- As of the most recent report, there had been 27 eligibility codes approved under the Brexit Loan Scheme to businesses in county Monaghan. Of those, 3 had progressed to draw loans under the scheme to a total value of €233,000.

A quarterly report covering the period to the end of Q4 2020 is expected in the coming weeks. While my Department is awaiting this final data, it is expected that there will be little change in these numbers as many businesses have diverted their attention to dealing with the immediate impacts of COVID-19.

As of 25 January 2021, there has been a total of 1,232 applications received under the Brexit Loan Scheme and 285 loans sanctioned to a total value of €57.64m.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (19)

Niall Collins

Question:

19. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on matters raised in correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6789/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I understand the enormous difficulties the wedding industry is facing as the pandemic rolls on. I fully appreciate that it is one of the industries worst affected and for the longest and know that as we enter a second year of restrictions many in the sector must be fearing for their future. I do hope that once the pandemic is over the wedding sector will have a number of good years with so many weddings postponed. In the meantime, the Government wants to make sure as many businesses as possible survive to see that day.

The financial support the Government is providing businesses and workers affected by the pandemic is unprecedented. Almost a million people of working age are now in receipt of weekly payments including the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), Employment Wage Subsidy (EWSS) and Jobseekers Benefit or Allowance. Support for business includes the weekly CRSS payment for businesses forced to close their doors to the public, reduced VAT rates, a commercial rates holiday, the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, the Tourism Business Continuity Scheme as well as low cost loans.

Budget 2021 provided a significant package of tax and expenditure measures to build the resilience of the economy and to help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. Details of the wide range of supports available are on my Department’s website at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

These measures are in addition to the €7 billion July Stimulus of enterprise measures, which includes the Wage Subsidy Scheme extended through 2021, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities, all of which will help to improve cashflow amongst self-employed. We are providing for an extension of the tax warehousing scheme to include repayments of Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme funds owed by employers and preliminary tax obligations for adversely affected businesses.

As announced in the July Stimulus, the Enterprise Support Grant was extended to assist eligible self-employed, including sole traders, who exit the PUP or jobseekers schemes, to re-start their business. Further information is available at www.gov.ie.

On the 9th of December, following engagement with the Arts sector and other self-employed sectors my colleague Minister Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Social Protection, announced the doubling of the PUP threshold from the current €480 over four weeks to €960 over an eight-week period effective immediately. This measure is to assist those who are trying to restart their businesses and will allow self-employed people to take on intermittent jobs without losing their entitlement to the PUP.

The Government also announced the provision of support of €50m for the live entertainment sector in Budget 2021. This will include measures for the commercial entertainment sector and will support live entertainment across the country. The 2021 supports for the live entertainment sector will be the subject of further consultation with stakeholders. It will also be informed by the pilot live performance scheme in 2020 which is being rolled out now.

The three main schemes, the CRSS, EWSS and PUP compare favourably with any other packages on offer in other countries. The new scheme, announced this week, the COVID Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) will provide funding of up to €8,000 for those businesses that are in receipt of a rates bill from their local authority. While the grant is modest, it will help smaller businesses in particular to cover these costs – rent, insurance, utilities, security.

The Government is very much open to proposals from the wedding sector as to how we can help further. However, Government schemes to support businesses are generally designed to help meet fixed costs that cannot be avoided and it is not possible to provide compensation for loss of personal income or profits.

My colleagues, Minister Catherine Martin T.D., Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht and Minister Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine may be able to provide more specific details on the events and hospitality industry and details on supports for the food sector respectively.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (20)

Malcolm Noonan

Question:

20. Deputy Malcolm Noonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the position of those in the wedding industry, many of whom fall outside current Covid-19-related financial support schemes, and all of whose income has been significantly impacted by the pandemic (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6799/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I understand the enormous difficulties the wedding industry is facing as the pandemic rolls on. I fully appreciate that it is one of the industries worst affected and for the longest and know that as we enter a second year of restrictions many in the sector must be fearing for their future. I do hope that once the pandemic is over the wedding sector will have a number of good years with so many weddings postponed. In the meantime, the Government wants to make sure as many businesses as possible survive to see that day.

The financial support the Government is providing businesses and workers affected by the pandemic is unprecedented. Almost a million people of working age are now in receipt of weekly payments including the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), Employment Wage Subsidy (EWSS) and Jobseekers Benefit or Allowance. Support for business includes the weekly CRSS payment for businesses forced to close their doors to the public, reduced VAT rates, a commercial rates holiday, the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, the Tourism Business Continuity Scheme as well as low cost loans.

Budget 2021 provided a significant package of tax and expenditure measures to build the resilience of the economy and to help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. Details of the wide range of supports available are on my Department’s website at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

These measures are in addition to the €7 billion July Stimulus of enterprise measures, which includes the Wage Subsidy Scheme extended through 2021, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities, all of which will help to improve cashflow amongst self-employed. We are providing for an extension of the tax warehousing scheme to include repayments of Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme funds owed by employers and preliminary tax obligations for adversely affected businesses.

As announced in the July Stimulus, the Enterprise Support Grant was extended to assist eligible self-employed, including sole traders, who exit the PUP or jobseekers schemes, to re-start their business. Further information is available at www.gov.ie.

On the 9th of December, following engagement with the Arts sector and other self-employed sectors my colleague Minister Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Social Protection, announced the doubling of the PUP threshold from the current €480 over four weeks to €960 over an eight-week period effective immediately. This measure is to assist those who are trying to restart their businesses and will allow self-employed people to take on intermittent jobs without losing their entitlement to the PUP.

The Government also announced the provision of support of €50m for the live entertainment sector in Budget 2021. This will include measures for the commercial entertainment sector and will support live entertainment across the country. The 2021 supports for the live entertainment sector will be the subject of further consultation with stakeholders. It will also be informed by the pilot live performance scheme in 2020 which is being rolled out now.

The three main schemes, the CRSS, EWSS and PUP compare favourably with any other packages on offer in other countries. The new scheme, announced this week, the COVID Business Aid Scheme (CBAS), will provide funding of up to €8,000 for those businesses that are in receipt of a rates bill from their local authority. While the grant is modest, it will help smaller businesses in particular to cover these costs – rent, insurance, utilities, security.

The Government is very much open to proposals from the wedding sector as to how we can help further. However, Government schemes to support businesses are generally designed to help meet fixed costs that cannot be avoided and it is not possible to provide compensation for loss of personal income or profits.

My colleagues, Minister Catherine Martin T.D., Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht and Minister Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine may be able to provide more specific details on the events and hospitality industry and details on supports for the food sector respectively.

IDA Ireland

Questions (21)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

21. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position on the provision of employment at a facility (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6839/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Central Pharma announced in December 2018 plans to establish an EMEA accredited contract packaging and supply centre at the IDA’s Advanced Technology Building in Tralee.

I understand that the company has subsequently experienced delays in progressing their plans in part due to Covid-19 restrictions which have delayed work on the site.

The IDA has informed me that the company expects to begin production in 2021 and has given assurances that it remains committed to its plans for the site. Recruitment is currently underway for lead staff, that will be followed by further hires.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (22)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

22. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the assistance that can be provided to wedding planners whose businesses and livelihoods have been impacted significantly by Covid-19 restrictions; the action he is taking to address their concerns (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6879/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I understand the enormous difficulties the wedding industry is facing as the pandemic rolls on. I fully appreciate that it is one of the industries worst affected and for the longest and know that as we enter a second year of restrictions many in the sector must be fearing for their future. I do hope that once the pandemic is over the wedding sector will have a number of good years with so many weddings postponed. In the meantime, the Government wants to make sure as many businesses as possible survive to see that day.

The financial support the Government is providing businesses and workers affected by the pandemic is unprecedented. Almost a million people of working age are now in receipt of weekly payments including the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), Employment Wage Subsidy (EWSS) and Jobseekers Benefit or Allowance. Support for business includes the weekly CRSS payment for businesses forced to close their doors to the public, reduced VAT rates, a commercial rates holiday, the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, the Tourism Business Continuity Scheme as well as low cost loans.

Budget 2021 provided a significant package of tax and expenditure measures to build the resilience of the economy and to help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. Details of the wide range of supports available are on my Department’s website at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

These measures are in addition to the €7 billion July Stimulus of enterprise measures, which includes the Wage Subsidy Scheme extended through 2021, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities, all of which will help to improve cashflow amongst self-employed. We are providing for an extension of the tax warehousing scheme to include repayments of Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme funds owed by employers and preliminary tax obligations for adversely affected businesses.

As announced in the July Stimulus, the Enterprise Support Grant was extended to assist eligible self-employed, including sole traders, who exit the PUP or jobseekers schemes, to re-start their business. Further information is available at www.gov.ie.

On the 9th of December, following engagement with the Arts sector and other self-employed sectors my colleague Minister Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Social Protection, announced the doubling of the PUP threshold from the current €480 over four weeks to €960 over an eight-week period effective immediately. This measure is to assist those who are trying to restart their businesses and will allow self-employed people to take on intermittent jobs without losing their entitlement to the PUP.

The Government also announced the provision of support of €50m for the live entertainment sector in Budget 2021. This will include measures for the commercial entertainment sector and will support live entertainment across the country. The 2021 supports for the live entertainment sector will be the subject of further consultation with stakeholders. It will also be informed by the pilot live performance scheme in 2020 which is being rolled out now.

The three main schemes, the CRSS, EWSS and PUP compare favourably with any other packages on offer in other countries. The new scheme, announced this week, the COVID Business Aid Scheme (CBAS) will provide funding of up to €8,000 for those businesses that are in receipt of a rates bill from their local authority. While the grant is modest, it will help smaller businesses in particular to cover these costs – rent, insurance, utilities, security.

The Government is very much open to proposals from the wedding sector as to how we can help further. However, Government schemes to support businesses are generally designed to help meet fixed costs that cannot be avoided and it is not possible to provide compensation for loss of personal income or profits.

My colleagues, Minister Catherine Martin T.D., Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht and Minister Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine may be able to provide more specific details on the events and hospitality industry and details on supports for the food sector respectively.

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement

Questions (23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 39, 40, 41)

Holly Cairns

Question:

23. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the risks to Irish consumers, SMEs and the State by ratification of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6896/21]

View answer

Holly Cairns

Question:

25. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on referring the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement to the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment for pre-ratification scrutiny before it is voted on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6899/21]

View answer

Holly Cairns

Question:

26. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there are environmental rights protections in the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6901/21]

View answer

Holly Cairns

Question:

27. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on referring the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement to the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action for pre-ratification scrutiny regarding environmental and climate issues before it is voted on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6902/21]

View answer

Holly Cairns

Question:

28. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on referring the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice for pre-ratification scrutiny regarding the impact on the rights of Irish residents before it is voted on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6904/21]

View answer

Holly Cairns

Question:

39. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if ratification of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement could enable corporations to try to sue governments under a special investor court system, a mechanism that would bypass domestic and EU courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7452/21]

View answer

Holly Cairns

Question:

40. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the legal mechanisms that will be available to the Government to challenge the final decision of the investor court system, that is, after the conclusions of tribunals and appeals processes as outlined in the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7453/21]

View answer

Holly Cairns

Question:

41. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on deferring ratification of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement until ongoing court cases regarding the ratification of the agreement are concluded in other European jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7454/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23, 25 to 28, inclusive, and 39 to 41, inclusive, together.

The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a modern and progressive Free Trade Agreement which has provisionally applied across the EU since the 21st September 2017. The Agreement covers virtually every aspect of economic activity and will provide new market opportunities in many sectors for Irish firms given the extensive bilateral business links between Ireland and Canada. Indeed, outside of Europe, the US and China, Canada is our largest indigenous export market. More than 400 Enterprise Ireland clients are doing business in the Canadian market employing over 6,000 people. Since the commencement of provisional application, duties on 98% of products that the EU trades with Canada have been removed. Furthermore, exports of Irish goods and services to Canada totalled approximately €3.9 billion in 2019, a 35% increase compared to 2016, the last full year, prior to the provisional application of CETA.

Provisional application is a standard mechanism provided for in the EU’s Free Trade Agreements. This means that those areas where the EU has full competence may be applied immediately once the Agreement has been voted for by Council and the European Parliament. It is an important mechanism that allows companies and consumers to benefit from a trade agreement at an early stage, as the completion of national ratification procedures across all 27 Member States can take a number of years. To date, 15 Member States have signaled to the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union the completion of their respective national ratification procedures while several other Member States are currently progressing approval of the Agreement, most recently Romania in December 2020.

The provisions that are in force since 21st September 2017 include the elimination of tariffs on almost all key exports, access to the Canadian procurement market, the easing of regulatory barriers, and more transparent rules for market access.

Moreover, the benefits and opportunities to business in the removal of non-tariff barriers to trade (NTBs) - in areas such as regulatory co-operation, trade facilitation measures, streamlined administration etc., will directly benefit Irish consumers. CETA will scrap or cut almost all the customs duties which EU importers have to pay on goods coming from Canada. As well as final products, the cost of parts, components and other inputs goods used to make final products also falls. This is the case already under provisional application of the Agreement. So, consumers can potentially enjoy lower prices and a wider choice of products and services, but only if the Canadian import satisfies all EU product rules including social and environmental standards, as well as people's health and safety and consumer rights.

The benefits and opportunities to business in the agreement will be especially valuable for SMEs, given that trade barriers tend to disproportionately burden smaller firms, which have fewer resources to overcome them than larger firms. Indeed, CETA contains an entire chapter exclusively dedicated to SMEs aimed at addressing those specific constraints that might otherwise limit SMEs taking full advantage of the improved EU-Canada trade agreement market access.

In services and investment CETA is the most far-reaching agreement the EU has ever concluded. Almost half of the benefits anticipated from CETA are expected in the services sector. CETA makes it easier for EU individuals and companies to provide services to Canadian customers and vice versa. It covers services such as legal, accountancy, transport and telecoms. There are considerable opportunities for Ireland given our strengths in services where Ireland has been particularly successful in expanding its share of the world’s services market in recent years with services exports accounting for approximately 60% of all exports in 2019. In this regard, there are a range of sectoral opportunities for Irish companies in Canada, including –

- Financial software,

- telecoms sector,

- digital media, content and gaming,

- education and e-learning,

- agritech/engineering,

- life sciences and

- digital health and consumer retail.

The full coming into force of the Agreement once ratified across all Member States, will see the implementation of the Investment Chapter of the Agreement including the resolution of disputes between investors and states, should they arise.

All international trade agreements have dispute resolution arrangements. Where such agreements cover (i) trade in both goods and services and (ii) investment rules and protections, then there must be a dispute resolution mechanism that covers investments. The EU’s new approach to investment protection is the Investment Court System (ICS) which is contained in CETA and replaces the old Investor-State Dispute Settlement or ISDS mechanism. ISDS, which has been in existence since the 1950s, enables overseas investors to resolve disputes with the government of the country where their investment is made through binding international arbitration. ISDS has been included in more than 2,000 investment treaties but has proved controversial in recent times and is now regarded as outdated by the European Commission. In this regard, the Irish Government considered the European Commission was right to seek to address the concerns raised by NGOs and others regarding ISDS in seeking to develop a new replacement mechanism – the Investment Court System (ICS) – to address concerns on transparency, legitimacy and public interest. ICS is the Investment Dispute Settlement system incorporated in CETA.

To this end, investors may utilise either national courts or the ICS, but cannot "forum-shop". Equally, it is important to remember that a Canadian firm can seek to sue the government for alleged unfair treatment or discrimination in our Courts whether CETA exists or not. CETA simply provides an arbitration alternative. However, that alternative, unlike a challenge in the Courts, cannot find any act by Government to be ultra vires or unconstitutional - it is only concerned with redress for proven harm.

ICS itself addressees the criticisms of the old ISDS system through:

- Greater transparency – hearings will be open and comments available on-line, and a right to intervene for parties with an interest in the dispute will be provided;

- Safeguards to prevent forum-shopping;

- Provisions for the swift dismissal of frivolous claims should they arise;

- The maintenance of a clear distinction between international law and domestic law;

- The avoidance of multiple and parallel proceedings in the ICS and national courts, and;

- The establishment of a permanent list of arbitrators.

The reforms to investment protection mean the ICS will involve:

- a public Investment Court System composed of a first instance Tribunal and an Appeal Tribunal;

- the establishment of a permanent list of arbitrators with qualifications – comparable to those required for the members of permanent international courts, from which members will be selected to hear individual cases; and

- precise limitations on the ability of investors to take a case before the Tribunal.

Irish companies investing in Canada have only one legal system and one constitutional framework to navigate should they believe they have been discriminated against. In contrast, Canadian companies investing in Europe are faced with 27 legal systems and constitutions. The Investment Court System provides a single, consistent mechanism where investors, be they Canadian or European, can seek redress.

It is also important to point out that CETA reaffirms the EU and Canada’s right to regulate to achieve legitimate policy objectives, such as the protection of public health, the environment or consumer protection, meaning measures relating to plain packaging on cigarettes, or minimum alcohol pricing can continue to be introduced.

CETA introduces a precise and specific standard of "fair and equitable treatment" of investors and investment. Therefore, an investor may only have recourse to the Investment Court System (ICS) in very specific limited grounds such as in the case of the denial of justice, or a fundamental breach of due process, or through targeted discrimination for example on the grounds of race, religious belief or gender. None of these measures give the Government any concern that Ireland would be subject to ICS proceedings. Moreover, it is important to note that under the ICS a State can never be forced to change its legislation, only to pay fair compensation in cases where the investor is deemed to have been treated unfairly under the specific grounds detailed. An investor cannot be given compensation just because they have lost profits or suffered economic loss or costs.

In September 2017, Belgium requested the opinion of the Court of Justice of the European Union regarding the compatibility of the ICS with EU law. The Opinion of the Court in Case 1/17 was issued on 30th April 2019 and held that the dispute settlement mechanism in CETA is compatible with EU law and complies with (i) the principle of autonomy of EU law and the exclusive jurisdiction of the CJEU for the interpretation of EU law, (ii) the principle of equal treatment and of the requirement of effectiveness of EU law, and (iii) the Charter of Fundamental Rights, in particular of the right of access to a court and right to an independent and impartial tribunal under the Charter.

The rules for the functioning of the CETA Appellate Tribunal have now been set out. These rules will ensure an effective two-step investigation including an appeal function, bringing it more in line with the structure operating at WTO level. In addition to the Tribunal, and the Appellate Tribunal, CETA also provides for rules for Mediation, an area which traditional investment agreements have largely overlooked, with the objective of facilitating the finding of a mutually agreed solution with the assistance of a mediator, without the requirement to access the Tribunal. A code of conduct for the judges of the ICS has also been established, to further bolster the assurances of the highest ethics standards already contained in the agreement.

Turning to the environment, as one of the first “new generation” EU Free Trade Agreements, CETA contains a dedicated chapter on Trade and the Environment. The Agreement has some of the strongest commitments ever included in a trade deal to promote labour rights, environmental protection and sustainable development. CETA integrates the EU's and Canada's commitments to apply international rules on workers' rights, environmental protection and climate action. These obligations are binding, with the same legal value as any other provision.

CETA does not restrict either the EU or Canada from passing new laws in areas of public interest such as the environment, and health and safety. Nor does CETA affect the Government’s scope for developing new laws in response to the needs and priorities of Irish citizens. CETA includes commitments towards the sustainable management of forests, fisheries and aquaculture. It also includes commitments to cooperate on trade-related environmental issues of common interest such as climate change where the implementation of the Paris Agreement will be an important shared responsibility for the European Union and its Member States and Canada.

As part of the finalising of the Agreement, the EU and Canada also agreed a legally binding Joint Interpretative Instrument (JII) that was added to CETA to provide further assurances in relation to public services, labour rights, environmental protection and investment. It is important to point out that CETA reaffirms the EU and Canada’s right to regulate to achieve legitimate policy objectives. Importantly, in CETA both sides also agree that more trade and investment should not be at the expense of environmental protection and labour rights. On the contrary, the EU and Canada are committed to ensuring that CETA helps ensure that economic growth, social development, and environmental protection go hand in hand.

Regarding Ireland’s own ratification, given that there can be no doubt that CETA is a progressive, high-standard agreement, I believe our own credibility in promoting open and fair global trade would be undermined if we are not in a position to ratify this Agreement.

As a small, open economy, Ireland has benefitted immensely from our export orientated enterprises trading across the globe and, therefore, we fully support balanced international trade and the suite of EU Free Trade Agreements that seek to underpin this. Equally, Ireland has been an attractive destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for many decades and participating in EU-Third Country Agreements that address Investment Protection continue to assist marketing Ireland as a competitive FDI-friendly jurisdiction for multinational enterprise to make their investments with the attendant jobs and prosperity that that entails.

In relation to the Deputy’s question on referring CETA to an Oireachtas Committee, I believe the Committee on European Union Affairs would be best placed to carry out an informed and timely discussion. I look forward to the opportunity of bringing the relevant motion forward to the Dáil in due course.

Foreign Direct Investment

Questions Nos. 25 to 28, inclusive, answered with Question No. 23.

Questions (24)

Holly Cairns

Question:

24. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if Ireland has bilateral investment treaties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6897/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

Ireland has no Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) with 3rd Countries.

Following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the European Commission was conferred with the competence to act on behalf of Member States in relation to trade and investment treaties, including BITs. Therefore, Member States have not concluded BITs with 3rd countries since the adoption of the Treaty. Moreover, where the Commission has concluded investment treaties with 3rd countries, Member States’ own BITs have been superseded.

Member States with intra-EU BITs signed the Agreement for the Termination of Intra-EU Bilateral Investment Treaties in May 2020 which came into force on 29 August 2020. 10 Member States have since ratified the Agreement in their national parliaments. This termination agreement implements the March 2018 European Court of Justice judgment (in the Achmea case). Thus, pre-accession BITs between EU Member States are in the process of being terminated. Moreover, within the Union, the rules of the Single Market and competition apply.

Historically, Ireland has benefitted from very strong investment inflows, reflecting investor confidence in the Irish legal system. However, increasingly investment by overseas firms in Ireland is accompanied by investments in other EU Member States and multiple legal and redress systems in Europe can present a disincentive relevant to other competitor locations. Equally, outward investment by firms in Ireland has not generated significant demand for the adoption of bilateral agreements, but as more Irish firms scale and seek to internationalise investment protection becomes a more important concern. On behalf of the Member States, the EU now seeks to negotiate Investment Protection Agreements with 3rd Countries such as those recently concluded with Singapore and with Vietnam.

Questions Nos. 25 to 28, inclusive, answered with Question No. 23.