Irish MEPs clash on CETA ahead of European Parliament vote on the deal

While such ambitious trade arrangements like CETA can be a cause of concern for sensitive sectors like agriculture, they offer huge opportunities too, Irish MEP Sean Kelly has said.

The European Parliament votes later today on the controversial Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada.

All four Fine Gael MEPs Sean Kelly, Mairead McGuinness, Brian Hayes and Deirdre Clune, will be voting in favour of the deal.

Kelly has said that exports are essential for the Irish agricultural sector and currently, EU food and agricultural exports face between 10-20% tariffs with Canada.

CETA will eliminate almost 92% of tariffs (agricultural and food products to Canada will be duty free).

“However, it is also important to note that certain sensitive sectors, such as beef and pork will remain with limited quotas. CETA will also not open up the market for poultry and eggs in the EU or Canada. Naturally, only hormone-free produce will be allowed into the EU.

“Furthermore, the EU’s and Canada’s current veterinary agreement will come under the enforcement disciplines of CETA, making the agreement much stronger.

“The protection of various products (145) will be labelled as geographical indications (GIs) with this agreement.”

Kelly has said that there is no doubt that such a trade agreement will greatly benefit the EU and Ireland in particular, with our strong economic ties with Canada.

“The trade relations between Ireland and Canada have been growing stronger over the years. The benefits of removing custom duties on certain goods will undeniably benefit Irish producers and I am very glad that Irish producers, but also consumers, will be able to trade more freely and enjoy greater benefits.”

Imports from Canada ‘will decimate our beef industry’

Meanwhile, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan MEP has said that prior to CETA, both Canada and the EU applied higher customs duties in the agricultural sector than in any other.

“The significant drop in tariff barriers instituted by the CETA will thus have the greatest effect on the agricultural sector, with zero-duties now applying to most forms of production.

“Just one example: Canada has secured a quota to export 55,000t of beef to the EU – this has particular resonance for Ireland.

“There is every reason to believe that the additional volumes allocated to Canada will be almost entirely served with high-quality hind cuts, especially rib and sirloin, in which case the 55,000t quota could equate to the high-value cuts of approximately 800,000 head of cattle.

To put this in context, Ireland’s weekly kill is about 30,000 head. Imports of this magnitude will decimate our beef industry.

Regarding what are called ‘non-tariff barriers to trade’; again focusing on food and taking just one element, Flanagan said that the text states that CETA must ‘ensure that the sanitary and phytosanitary measures taken by the parties do not create undue obstacles to trade’.

He said that the main European standards potentially targeted under the CETA, considered by Canada’s government and/or businesses as significant obstacles to their trade, are:

  • The ban on treating animals with ractopamine;
  • The ban on the use of hormonal growth stimulators in beef cattle;
  • The ban on certain decontaminating substances on products of animal origin intended for human consumption.

“Many other standards are potentially affected, anywhere that ‘barriers to trade’ – our protections – exist between both parties. Those risks, the weakening of European standards, have already been raised in a report commissioned in 2013 by the European Parliament.”

Finally, and perhaps most damaging of all to farmers, Flanagan has said that there is the implicit threat to farm supports.

“The percentage of agricultural producers’ income derived from direct subsidies is higher in the EU than in Canada.”

While CETA does not contain any obligations regarding these subsidies, one party may request that consultations be opened if it deems that its interests are being adversely affected (or are likely to be so) as a result of grant-aid by the other party.

“It is interesting to note that much of the Commission’s ‘kite flying’ in advance of the 2020 CAP reform centres on the provision of ‘financial instruments’ and measures to ‘combat price volatility’.

“Where can we find these in operation? Canada of course, where there are no direct payments, just crop insurance and loans.

“Farmers should be very aware of the insidious erosion of the current CAP support system. Be warned, CETA is not a good deal for either food producers or for food consumers – that’s all of us.”