As the Deputy will be aware, CETA has provisionally applied since 21st September 2017 meaning that duties on 98% of products (tariff lines) that the EU trades with Canada have been removed. The reduced trade barriers, tariff elimination, simplified customs procedures and more compatible technical requirements all make it easier and cheaper for Irish companies of all sizes to export to Canada. Although the Agreement includes provisions for a mechanism for the settlement of disputes between investors and the EU or Canada, concerning the interpretation and application of the agreement, the Investment Court System (ICS) is excluded from provisional application. In order for all the Investment Provisions of CETA to come into force, including the Investment Court System (ICS), the Agreement must be ratified by all EU Member States in accordance with their national procedures.
On 7th September 2017, the Kingdom of Belgium requested the opinion of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) regarding the compatibility of the ICS with EU law. The Opinion of the CJEU which was issued on 30th April 2019 held that the dispute settlement mechanism in CETA is compatible with EU law and complies with
1. the principle of autonomy of EU law and the exclusive jurisdiction of the CJEU for the interpretation of EU law,
2. the principle of autonomy of EU law and the exclusive jurisdiction of the CJEU for the interpretation of EU law, and
3. 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.
This decision of the Court means that no changes are required to be made to the text of the CETA, and EU Member States can proceed with ratification of CETA, according to the requirements of their national law.
To date, 13 Member States have ratified CETA, while Ireland, along with several other Member States, chose to await the outcome of the CJEU opinion prior to considering the commencement of the ratification process at national level.
In light of the opinion of the CJEU, my Department is progressing the necessary steps for Ireland’s ratification of CETA, including consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. In due course, I will submit a Memorandum to Government requesting the Government to authorise the moving of a motion in Dáil Éireann (in accordance with Article 29.5.2 of the Constitution), seeking approval on the terms of the Agreement. If Dáil Éireann votes in favour of the Agreement, Ireland will notify the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union that we have completed our respective internal requirements and procedures concerning the ratification of CETA. While I cannot provide a precise timeframe for this ratification process, my Department continues to progress the matter as a priority.