The Irish Times | 4 March 2021
A Canadian view on Ceta trade deal
Sir, – David O’Sullivan outlines his beliefs as to why Ireland should pass the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (Ceta) (“Causing EU crisis over Canada trade deal would be mistake for Ireland”, Opinion & Analysis, March 1st).
While the media has covered arguments both in favour and against the agreement in Ireland, there has been little coverage given into how Ceta is viewed in Canada.
Ceta has as many critics in Canada as it does in Ireland. In 2019, a range of civil society organisations, including the Council of Canadians, the National Farmers Union and the National Union of Public and General Employees, called on the French national assembly and senate to reject Ceta. The leaders of the New Democratic Party and the Green Party of Canada also wrote to their French counterparts urging them to vote against the agreement.
In 2011, Toronto City Council voted in favour of a motion to exclude the city from any trade agreement between the EU and Canada to protect the powers of municipalities to use public procurement, services and investment as tools to create local jobs and otherwise support local economic development.
Scott Sinclair, a senior trade researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, wrote in the Toronto Star that, “while Ceta’s safeguards for labour and the environment are mainly voluntary and weak, the investor protections are strong and fully enforceable. Such an agreement could only be considered enlightened in an upside-down world.”
Canadians have firsthand experience of investment-protection rules that David O’Sullivan exalts in his opinion piece. In 2018, US company Bilcon sued the Canadian government for $443 million in damages after the federal government denied a proposed open-pit quarry in Nova Scotia. Both the federal and provincial governments rejected the quarry development due to environmental concerns. The US company successfully sued Canada using the investor-state dispute settlement provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Ceta, a hangover from the conservative reign of former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, has received only cosmetic changes during the term of current prime minister Justin Trudeau.
Ireland should do the right thing for both Irish and Canadians and reject this trade agreement. – Your, etc,