The CETA trade deal is now just one step away from ratification by the European Parliament, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan has said after the agreement received the backing of the Parliament’s Trade Committee (INTA) this morning.

CETA stands for Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and it is exactly that – comprehensive, he said.

“It was negotiated entirely in secret, emerged into the daylight only when people started digging around TTIP, the even bigger deal that was being negotiated – also in secret – with the USA.

“Ostensibly it’s about trade but given that very few trade tariffs exist anymore, in fact it’s mostly about removing so-called ‘non-tariff barriers’, corporate-speak for ‘all those pesky obstacles to us making even more profits’.

“Those ‘obstacles’ are our hard-won protections from rampant corporate greed, protections such as legal standards for labour/environment/food quality and production etc etc – the list is long.”

The truth is, as has been learned through bitter experience by nations worldwide, the hungriest and the greediest of those global corporations will find a way to either a) force through their own agenda (be that fracking, GM food, hormone-boosted beef) or b), sue national governments not just for lost investments but for any and all profits they believe would have accrued from those investments.

“This isn’t yet a done deal; it now comes before the European Parliament in mid February – get in the ear of your local MEP, your local Fine Gael MEP especially, and ask them to vote against it.

“Even if it gets through the European Parliament though, it must still be voted in by every individual Member State parliament – again, you know what to do. This is a battle that can and must be won.”

CETA offers a ‘huge opportunity’

Meanwhile, Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly has welcomed today’s vote in favour of the EU-Canada trade agreement by the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee – of which Kelly is the only Irish Member.

“After seven years of negotiations, with the full inclusion of various stakeholders including trade unions, NGOs and more, a very advanced, extensive trade agreement was achieved with CETA.

“Almost all tariffs will be eliminated with the conclusion of CETA, saving European exporters over €500m per year and create a level playing field for both partners with strong environmental, consumer and labour standards.”

While such ambitious trade arrangements can be a cause of concern for sensitive sectors like agriculture, they offer huge opportunities too.

Kelly said that exports are essential for the Irish agricultural sector.

“Currently, EU food and agricultural exports face between 10-20% tariffs with Canada. CETA will eliminate 94% of tariffs.

“Furthermore, 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.”

‘Commission bullish in pushing through CETA’

Also reacting to the Trade Committee green lighting the CETA agreement was Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy, who said that this was an important and disappointing stage in the ratification process.

“The battle against this dangerous deal will be reaching a crucial point when all MEPs will vote on CETA at the February plenary in Strasbourg.

“Ironically the INTA vote comes in the same week as European agriculture ministers discussed the findings of the European Commission’s report on the cumulative effects of trade agreements which confirmed last November that there would be a steep drop in beef prices of around 16% as a result of the EU’s planned trade agreements.”

With TTIP hanging in the balance because of the new administration in the US, the Commission has been particularly bullish in pushing through CETA, which includes all of the negative provisions as TTIP itself.

“The Commission’s strategy to railroad CETA has been based on a complete lack of transparency, the bullying of national and regional governments, the misrepresentation and ignoring of its own research data and a denial of a democratic legislative process whenever possible.

“The list of organisations, lawyers, activists and citizens who have come out against the deal at this stage is longer and their arguments stronger than those of the protagonists.

“Nevertheless the Commission, and the Irish Government, have sided with corporations under their continued fake mantra of “trade equals jobs” as if CETA was a traditional free trade deal when clearly it is not”

Like Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, Carthy said that farmer bodies, trade unions, environmental groups and others must intensify their efforts to call on MEPs to vote against CETA when it comes before plenary.

“The vote in INTA was a setback but the campaign against this dangerous trade agreement, that is clearly not in Ireland’s interests, continues.”