Thursday, 29 June 2017

Ceisteanna (6, 18)

Mick Wallace


6. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation further to Parliamentary Question No. 257 of 31 May 2017, the eight areas that the Government has excluded from the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA; the process by which decisions to exclude particular policy areas are made; the number of submissions for exceptions that were made to her Department; the Departments from which they originated; the policy areas to which they related; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30236/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Wallace


18. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the potential impact of CETA in view of the fact that the State's negative list of eight policy areas is considerably shorter than other member states, for example, Germany, which has 25 pages of exemptions; her further views on the fact that Ireland's negative list does not include services such as water, education or health; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30237/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (8 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Jobs)

I welcome the Minister to her new job. I hope she enjoys it more than the previous one.

Deputy Wallace is everywhere.

The European Commission explanatory document on negative lists states that all sectors or sub-sectors that are not listed on the negative list are, by default, open to foreign service suppliers under the same conditions as domestic service suppliers. The Minister's predecessor stated that substantive engagement took place, sector by sector, to identify Ireland's interests over the course of negotiations. However, the negative list for Ireland refers to only eight areas, effectively leaving almost all areas of life in this country open to the provisions of CETA, which is nothing less than an attack on our power to regulate in the interests of the public. Why is this the case?

There is a very straightforward answer to the point the Deputy has made. He has made it several times, for example, in respect of Germany. The latter has a shorter list than Ireland and it is important to note that the German list is prepared by the 16 Länder while Ireland's is a single national list. That is the first point to explain the disparity between the two lists.

Ireland is an open trading economy. Under successive governments Ireland has continued to promote a policy for open international trade and competition. This has greatly benefited our economy. The process by which decisions are made regarding exemptions is through a comprehensive consultation with Departments at every stage of a negotiation of a free trade agreement.

The EU-Canada economic and trade agreement, CETA, commits Canada, the EU and its member states to permit access to each other's domestic services market and to treat foreign services suppliers no less favourably than their own service suppliers.

It is important to note that one of the features of Canada-Ireland economic relations has been the high level of Canadian investment in Ireland, which we welcome. We will also welcome the visit of the Canadian Prime Minister next week. At the end of 2015, Ireland's FDI stocks in Canada amounted to over €4 billion, making Ireland the thirteenth largest source of FDI to Canada, and there are some 400 Enterprise Ireland client companies doing business in Canada.

There are exceptions to the general commitments to liberalisation of the services market. These are listed in Annex I, reservations for existing measures and liberalisation commitments, and Annex II, reservations for future measures to the agreement. There are EU-specific exceptions that cover all of the member states and Ireland is also covered by its own specific exceptions. We need to look at those two lists.

The annexes list all the existing measures and restrictions that the EU and Ireland want to maintain in respect of Canadian service providers. It is important to note that CETA does not cover public services. EU member states will be able to retain ownership of public monopolies, CETA will not force governments to privatise or deregulate public services - such as the water supply, health or education - and EU member states will continue to be able to decide which public services they want to keep public and subsidise them.

Given that it is the Minister's first time answering questions in her new capacity, I would expect her to paint a prettier picture than the one we anticipate. There is a lot to be said for trade deals around the world. I am totally in favour of doing business with different countries but very often these trade deals have led to various types of problems. Much of the research around CETA comes straight from fairyland. The modelling used, for example, assumes constant full employment so no one can be unemployed due to imports. It assumes balanced trade so a country's total output cannot be undermined by a trade deficit. It assumes no international capital flows. It is a false notion that companies will not be able to shift investment abroad.

I know that this is a new portfolio for the Minister and that she is being fed a certain line by the civil servants. However, the picture is not as rosy as we have been led to believe and as the Minister is starting out in this area, I ask her to look under the covers to see exactly what CETA will mean for the people of Ireland.

I ask the Deputy to do the very same. He should look under the bonnet of CETA as well to see the huge advantages it offers in Ireland. It covers virtually all aspects of economic activity. The Deputy should consider the new market opportunities which are very significant for many Irish firms and in the context of Brexit they will welcome those opportunities. Irish companies will now be able to bid for Canadian public contracts as limitations on those will end under CETA. Irish firms will also benefit from the recognition of product standards and certification thus saving on the double testing on both sides of the Atlantic. Ireland has strong protections for the beef industry through restrictive quotas for Canadian beef entering the EU. CETA will also provide very significant opportunities for the dairy industry which could find Brexit quite challenging given its dependence on the UK market. There are many opportunities in CETA for Irish firms and business which will help many Irish families. It is very important to consider that aspect as well.

While the Minister was busy looking under the bonnet of the Department of Justice and Equality and trying to defend the poor Garda Commissioner day and night, I was looking under a few other bonnets, including those of CETA and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, for several years. I can assure her that there are problems in these areas. The Minister mentioned beef. No one in his or her right mind would claim that the regulation around the production of beef anywhere in North America, be it the United States or Canada, is as good as ours. When beef comes in from Canada it will be cheap, as is the case with beef from Brazil. Beef from the latter is coming into Ireland into wholesale units where it is repackaged and sold as if it was Irish, with the original labels removed. It is produced for a third less than Irish beef because our regulation is much better.

Likewise, CETA and TTIP, when it unfortunately arrives here, will make it difficult for Irish producers of food to compete with Canada and the USA because of their lower standards of regulation.

While Irish meat export volumes to Canada are low, there is a real prospect of growing business with that country. That is important for producers here. I am not saying there are no difficulties with these international trade agreements - I accept there can be aspects - but I am asking the Deputy to have a more comprehensive approach to it because there are huge opportunities. The removal of Canada's 26.5% import tariff will be significant. The Irish dairy industry will benefit from Canada opening a new bilateral quota with the EU of 18,500 tonnes of cheese and the elimination of all tariffs on its milk proteins. These are important initiatives which will help very important sectors in Ireland to grow their markets and diversify, which is even more important given the challenge of Brexit. I am pointing out all the positives around CETA which will impact on farm families and business up and down this country as they face into the challenging period ahead. That aspect of these trade agreements is certainly worth putting on the floor of the House.