State has substantially benefited from EU-Canada trade deal, committee to hear

Irish beef and cheese exports to Canada rose 700% and 400% respectively due to Ceta

The Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs will hear that  Irish beef exports to Canada have increased by 700%  since Ceta came into effect. Photograph: Brendan Fitzsimons

The Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs will hear that Irish beef exports to Canada have increased by 700% since Ceta came into effect. Photograph: Brendan Fitzsimons

 

Ireland has substantially benefited from the trade agreement between Canada and the European Union with a 58 per cent increase in exports since it came into effect in 2017, Canadian witnesses will tell an Oireachtas committee on Tuesday.

They will also say that Irish beef exports to Canada have increased by 700 per cent and there have also been major expansion of cheese and whiskey exports.

The all-party Committee on European Union Affairs will hear from representatives of the Canadian embassy in Dublin and the Ireland Canada Business Association as it continues its discussion of the controversial Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta).

The Government had proposed to ratify Ceta in December 2020 but deferred the decision after it emerged a number of Green Party TDs would vote against the Coalition if the ratification was pressed to a division. Amid ongoing differences within the Greens on Ceta, the committee agreed to conduct detailed scrutiny of the accord.

Canadian representatives appearing on Tuesday will say that Ireland’s trade surplus with Canada has increased to 1.7 billion under Ceta and will argue it has significantly advantaged the State.

New opportunities

In her opening statement, Suzanne Drisdelle, chargé d’affaires at the Canadian embassy, will say that not only have Irish exports and its trade surplus increased, Ceta has “opened new opportunities for Irish companies to bid on Canadian government procurement, and facilitates the freer movement of business people” (once travel resumes).

“Certain sectors of the Irish economy have seen a significant growth in exports to Canada since 2016, including dairy, baked goods, textiles, beverages, Irish whiskey and spirits. During this timeframe, Irish beef exports to Canada increased by 700 per cent and cheese exports by over 400 per cent,” the statement says.

Chris Collenette, of the Irish Canada Business Association, will argue that the “numbers do not lie”.

He has pointed to Canadian direct investment in Ireland of more than €6.3 billion at the end of 2019, with some 75 Canadian operational companies in Ireland, employing 15,000 people.

These include Irish Life, Brown Thomas and Circle K, as well as companies in Galway, Laois, Limerick, Mayo and Cork among other counties.

The most contentious area of Ceta is its investor-state dispute settlement regime, which critics argue could allow private corporations sue states over public policies and laws, which have been introduced for the public good.

Last week Dr Oisín Suttle, assistant professor of law at Maynooth University, told the committee the investment chapter of Ceta could put a “significant constraint” on the State’s ability to regulate in areas such as environmental protection, public health and housing.

He said the potential of being exposed to multi-billion law suits could have a “chilling effect” on governments. He said that the 2008 bank guarantee, the housing rental market, as well as laws to decarbonise the economy could be vulnerable under the investor dispute settlement arrangements.